Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PSA: Salt and Ice Challenge

Normally, I'm all about home-grown science experiments. My kids have whipped up all kinds of concoctions in the kitchen, and we've blown up more than our fair share of baking soda volcanoes.

But the latest, "greatest" DIY kitchen science experiment -- the salt and ice challenge -- is actually dangerous.

I'd never heard of the salt and ice challenge until today. More specifically, until today's headline news article, which features a large photo of a cross burned into a 12-year-old boy's back.

It seems the boy, his brother and a friend were attempting the challenge, which is making the rounds on YouTube. I hadn't heard about that either, so I clicked over the YouTube. And sure enough -- there are plenty of videos showing kids undertaking the challenge.

Normally, I wouldn't post videos that explicitly show how to do something harmful. But in this case, I think it's important to watch the videos.One, because I want you to know what your kids may be watching. And two, because I think these videos may have something important to tell us about boys today.

Did you notice that both videos feature boys? And not just one boy, but two. In both videos, there's a very strong undercurrent of competition. Each of the boys is trying to outlast the other. And all of them, I'm convinced, leave the ice/salt combination on their body a lot longer than they normally would, simply because they're trying to impress/outlast the other boy. In the top video, the younger boy claims victory because he didn't wash off his arm; he states this fact as a badge of virtual bravery and honor. In the lower video, the boy with the hat removes his ice cube when the pain becomes too intense -- but replaces it when it sees that his friend still has the ice in place in his arm.

Bottom line (which has been true throughout the ages): Boys will do some pretty dumb stuff to impress other boys. Together, they will take risks that they'd never take independently.

Other bottom line: Like it not, YouTube is a powerful presence in the lives of our boys' lives. They may claim to hate Justin Bieber, but they all know that he became famous after uploading videos to YouTube. They know who Ray William Johnson is, and most know who Smosh is too. As far as our boys are concerned, uploading videos of yourself doing dumb stuff is a good way to get famous.

I don't have any words of wisdom here, just words of caution. I'm an involved parent, our computer is in a central location and all in all, I monitor what they watch online. (And yes, it includes Ray Williams Johnson and Smosh.) I talk to my boys regularly about health and safety, and real bravery vs. bravado. But I could still see them falling for the salt-and-ice challenge. I could still see them heading to the kitchen to try it out -- because, really, how bad can it be? I can see them thinking, Salt? Ice? Those are just common household ingredients! I'd hope that they'd drop the ice before they caused serious damage, but if other boys are around, who knows?

What do you think? Would your boys fall for the salt-and-ice challenge?


  1. I can't even watch these videos (I know myself well enough that I will get preoccupied with them and it's too late in the evening). But, I'm so glad to have read your post. What a good reminder about what boys will do and especially, what they will do in pairs. Thanks, Jenny!

  2. I am way behind on my blog reading. This is a great reminder. You know how the boy brain thinks, and I think you are right on. Smart kids do dumb things, and we best be paying attention, if at all possible! I do tend to think of the positive, and maybe if they do something that hurts somewhat but doesn't do permanent damage, perhaps it is a good lesson for later on, when a big decision could do harm for life.

    Be well, A