B.C. expert weighs in on why kids are eating Tide pods for fun

Why are kids taking part in something completely pointless yet so risky?

It’s not the first strange trend to go viral – and certainly won’t be the last – but an online challenge provoking teens to eat packets of clothing detergent on camera is turning heads.

Known as the “Tide pod challenge,” teens of all ages are filming themselves eating the blue and orange infused packages.

While some end laughing and spitting it out, the challenge has turned serious with dozens of people being poisoned by the detergent. According to the U.S. poison control centre, when ingested the liquid inside the pods can cause diarrhea, coughing spells and vomiting. Children who aspirate it into their lungs can suffer from long-term breathing difficulties.

Despite there being no known cases of the challenge going wrong in B.C., many youth and teens are aware of the videos.

So why are kids taking part in something completely pointless yet so risky?

According to Eric Meyers, an expert on youth online behaviour, the answer is no different than for kids of generation’s past: an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that moderates social behaviour and decision making.

READ MORE: Dare to be smarter and just say no

Mix that with how quickly gratification can be gained on the internet – in the form of likes, shares and views – and it’s the perfect equation for a challenge that makes little sense but carries serious shock value to spread quickly.

“Part of it is fueled with the notion of internet fame and the idea you can generate enough clicks, generate enough views and that will make you internet famous even for a few moments,” said Meyers, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.

Like other challenges – including the benign mannequin challenge, or positive ice bucket challenge which raised funds for ALS research – this one involves young people feeling the need to videotape their behaviours as a way of documenting their experience, Meyers said.

“In our contemporary society, there’s this thirst for notoriety,” Meyers said, “and in particular online fandom and infinity that is driving some of these behaviours. It’s not like kids don’t know this is wrong for them.”

In response to the challenge causing such a stir, Tide’s parent company Procter and Gamble released a statement, saying: “Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes and they’re used safely in millions of households every day. They should be only used to clean clothes and kept up, closed and away from children. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke.”

Tide also released an online campaign, featuring New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, discouraging the practice.

“Raising awareness is kind of a double-edged sword,” Meyers said. “It draws more people to the controversy as participants as much as it dissuades people from engaging in it.”

Video sharing service YouTube is removing videos involving people eating the detergent.

“YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm,” the company said in a statement.

Social media amplifies natural tendency towards risk: Meyers

The Tide pod challenge will soon fade, becoming last week’s game, before it’s replaced by whatever challenges comes next as youth look to wow their peers with something new.

And no matter what it is, it’ll be online for all to see.

“It’s not that social media is compelling young people to do this,” Meyers said. “Social media is simply a tool by which they can do this and gain gratification by other people. So it amplifies some of the effects of young people’s natural tendency towards risk but it’s not the actual cause of risky behaviour.”

While risk is a natural part of adolescence, Meyer said parents and school officials can play a role in talking with teens about balancing risk with acceptance – but the effectiveness of the message is in the delivery.

Instead of telling them “no,” which can often “be like the forbidden fruit” scenario, Meyers said, talking with the kid about why they’re feeling they need to take part can lead to a deeper discussion about decision making and online behaviours.

“It’s sad to see that this sort of behaviour takes place, but it’s something that we need to talk about and to open up dialogues with young people – teenagers in particular – so we can understand their motivations but also have them reflect and unpack what the possible outcomes could be for them,” Meyers said.

“In some cases they’re just not thinking in the long term about the consequences.”

Just Posted

Sailings filling up on Northern Sea Wolf

There is a strong demand for the service

New ownership group presents Mount Timothy Resort plans

‘More activity and more people on the hill means more fun’

Thunderstorms in forecast for much of Cariboo Chilcotin

Special weather statements, concerns of flash flooding, for southern B.C. regions

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Most Read