The cycle of viral memes and challenges is endless. While most are funny and harmless, some come along that are actually quite dangerous. The latest viral challenge causing wide spread concern and inspiring stark reactions from parents worldwide is the Skull Breaker Challenge, and the videos are as unsettling as the name would suggest.
The challenge involves two people in on the prank standing on either side of a third person who does not know what is about to happen. All three people stand in a straight line and are told to jump in the air. The person in the middle, who is, again, not aware of the challenge, jumps believing the other two will jump as well, but what they actually do is kick inward to knock the middle person off of their feet and onto their head.
The injury-inducing trend is gaining popularity on TikTok, but the real virality of it lies in the reposts from concerned parents and schools trying to warn children and teens that the risk far outweighs the instant gratification of likes on a social media platform. This week, after the challenge began trending on TikTok, parents posted photos and stories of children sustaining injuries as a result of the challenge.
As the Skull Breaker Challenge makes its way around the world, at least two children in the United States have been hospitalized attempting the challenge, according to Yahoo News. Administrators at a school in Colombia condemned the challenge online after one of the videos was filmed at the school. While they did not mention whether serious injuries were sustained as a result of the stunt, the school was clear that the challenge would not be allowed.
Still, the Skull Breaker challenge — and dangerous social media stunts attempted by young kids — predates the TikTok app. The Skull Breaker Challenge is just one in a long line, and it's unlikely to be the last. Lest we forget all the Tide Pod memes and the associated challenge that went along with it that was everywhere at the start of 2018. Or the Bird Box Challenge in 2019 that had people attempting all kinds of stunts while blindfolding. One person even tried – unsuccessfully – to drive their car that way.
A spokesperson for TikTok gave a statement to set the record straight, saying that this is not a TikTok-inspired trend. “The safety and well-being of our users is a top priority at TikTok,” the spokesperson said. “As we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do now allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous challenges that might lead to injury, and we remove reported behavior or activity that violates our guidelines.” The company went on to ensure that a slate of safety features geared toward enhancing users' experiences are there to help prevent these kinds of challenges from spreading, “including tools for reporting inappropriate content and for managing privacy settings.”
Unfortunately, the viral sensation here spread in due part from concerned parents on Facebook, giving the trend a sudden burst of attention. Still, the consequences of this particular "challenge" do come with doctor warnings that state harmful physical damages for kids (or adults) attempting the stunt. “Although it can seem like a harmless prank to children and adolescents, they should be educated on the potential serious consequences of doing the skull breaker challenge,” said Dr. Nathan Richards, a pediatrics physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.