Talking to your child about TikTok challenges

Emily Lawrenson

Emily Lawrenson

Qustodio writer

talking to children about tiktok challenges

As a kid, the only people who could bear witness to your flawless interpretation of Bye Bye Bye were your long-suffering parents, forced into the living room for yet another Friday night performance. Today, for a teenager with a smartphone, that audience can be anyone, anywhere, at any time. Thanks to the TikTokification of social media, dances, routines, and viral challenges have swept the internet, with each one becoming more daring than the last

While some challenges on social media are fun and positive, like learning the latest dance routine, or asking grandma about the true meaning behind select emojis, the sad truth is that many of the challenges circulating on social media are potentially dangerous, harmful, or even deadly. Here’s how you can talk to your child or teenager about the content and consequences of the challenges they might be seeing on TikTok.

What is a TikTok challenge?

A challenge on TikTok is a call for people watching the video or trend to get involved and take some form of action. From learning a new dance move to recording how many pushups you can do in 60 seconds, there’s a challenge for everyone. 

TikTok challenges really took off during the 2020 pandemic, when people around the world suddenly found themselves at home with no outside stimulation. Turning to the internet and social media for companionship, challenges were a fun way to pass the time while connecting with people across the globe.

How can you keep track of trending challenges?

What’s popular on social media changes from one day to the next, so it’s difficult for parents and guardians to stay on top of trends unless they’re very much in the loop. Some simple ways to keep up with the fast pace of online content include: 


  1. Use the same platforms your children do, so you understand how they work. While the TikTok algorithm is based on your personal views and interests, you can still check trending tags, videos, and users. 
  2. Talk to your tween or teen about their interests, and the kinds of videos they watch. Offer them a safe space where they can share what they like and dislike without feeling judged by you. This way, they’ll be more likely to come to you if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable or which they feel might be dangerous. 
  3. Make use of TikTok’s native parental controls: Family Pairing. These allow families to set screen time limits, restrict searches and inappropriate content, block TikTok LIVE, and hide their profile from discovery. 
how to talk to your child about challenges on tiktok

Why are TikTok challenges dangerous? 

Not all social media challenges are dangerous. Some are pretty innocent, and TikTok users have the chance to feel part of a community through them, trying out different accents, imitating Dolly Parton, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Sadly, many TikTok challenges encourage others to join in with or imitate foolish, and often risky behavior

Dangerous or questionable challenges over the years have included:

  • Slapping a teacher at school
  • Cooking chicken in NyQuil
  • Swallowing laundry detergent tabs (Tide pods) 
  • Eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon 
  • Excessively consuming over-the-counter medication, like Benadryl (an antihistamine)
  • Setting objects, or body parts, on fire
  • Flicking pennies into electrical outlets

…and the list, unfortunately, goes on. While teenagers and young people have always been up for goading one another into risky behavior, social media lets dares and challenges run riot, reaching new audiences outside kids’ friendship groups and even across the globe. 

What is the most dangerous TikTok challenge?

One of the most notorious challenges, “The Blackout Challenge”, was a social media take on a popular playground dare. Participants in the challenge are encouraged to hold their breath until they pass out. The Blackout Challenge has so far resulted in over 15 deaths, all children under 12.

Why do children want to do these challenges?

Online peer pressure can be difficult for young people to avoid these days, and this can certainly play a part in why children feel the urge to take part in risky challenges. Challenges allow young people to feel connected, feel part of something, and try out new, fun things – until they become deadly.  

“Kids don’t yet have a fully formed pre-frontal cortex in their brain,” child psychologist Dr. Nicole Beurkens states, speaking to Qustodio on the effects of digital peer pressure. How does this affect their decision-making process as they choose whether to be involved in the latest TikTok trend? “This doesn’t allow them to think through and weigh the consequences of their actions, especially in the context of pressure from peers,” she continues. 

Challenges can also start as a way for kids and teens to draw attention to themselves. Social media is the world’s largest playground, and it’s not easy to get yourself seen or heard when up against so many out there. Doing risky, silly or stupid things can be a way for people to get themselves noticed, meaning more views and more interaction. 

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How to talk to children about TikTok challenges

1. Help them understand what peer pressure means

Everyone feels the need to follow or blend in with the crowd sometimes, or do the same as others. This is a completely normal feeling, but it’s not something we always have to act on, or should, especially when risky behavior is involved. Try asking your child if they’ve ever felt tempted to do something they’ve seen online. Why did they feel this way? What motivated them to want to join in?

2. Give them examples of challenges that have gone wrong

While it’s not a particularly pleasant subject to breach, talking to children about the consequences of certain TikTok challenges can help open their eyes to the dangers that are out there.

3. Encourage them to pause before they post 

Whether it’s a comment, a photo, or a video, encourage children to take a moment and think about what they’re saying or uploading, and think through some of these ideas:

  • Is what I am saying or doing hurting anyone? 
  • Why do I feel the need to upload or post this? 
  • Could this have any negative consequences? 
  • Is this something I’ll regret in the future?

While these can be difficult questions to ask, especially when the impulse of social media strikes, they can help teens to take a moment and reflect – which sometimes is all it takes. 

4. Be a safe space for your kids 

Make sure that your children know that they can come to you and count on you for advice and an open ear, without judgment. The more you engage with them and talk to them, creating an encouraging, open and honest space, the more likely they are to come to you when they feel uncomfortable or are unsure about something they’ve seen on the internet. 

Communication goes both ways, too. Sharing your own experiences and offering real-life examples can also be a great way for your children to feel more understood, and it can help you build trust with them. 

Through a combination of social media parental controls or wellbeing tools, family trust, patience, and openness, along with consistent communication about the dangers and potential benefits of social media, you’ll be well on your way to guiding your children safely along their digital journey. 

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