Teens always seem to be inventing new challenges for themselves. Some of these may be harmless, but there's a new challenge that is going viral, and this one carries with it a dangerous side. It turns a common school instrument — erasers — into an object which can actually harm students.
The Eraser Challenge, sometimes called the ABC game, challenges teens to vigorously rub an eraser on their skin. There are some variations to the game. Some teens recite the alphabet while playing as a means of distraction. The object of the game? To see who can get the biggest wound as a result of their ability to stand the pain.
Some teens have gone as far as to combine the Eraser Challenge with the Salt and Ice Challenge. Students put salt and ice on their skin. The interaction of the two causes a chemical reaction, resulting in wounds similar to frostbite.
Regardless of which challenge the teens decide to participate in, the results are the same: Open wounds on their bodies. The wounds bring risk of infection and scarring. Some students were even admitted to the hospital because of their self-inflicted wounds.
Social media is helping to further spread the Eraser Challenge. Teens post their "accomplishments" to Facebook, including gruesome photos like this one. Some of the social media posts are as much as a year old, suggesting the challenge has been around for a while, but is seeing a resurgence.
Angela Mattke, M.D. in Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, noted the risk of infection that these teens face. "Anytime the skin barrier is broken down, there is an increased risk of skin infections," said Mattke. "Burns, whether from heat or chemicals, result in a break of the natural skin barrier. The skin barrier’s job is to keep bad things out like potential infection causing bacteria."
According to Mattke, infection is nothing to brush off. If an infection is bad enough, a student will need antibiotics. "There have been case reports of skin infections at the site of the burn becoming more serious and systemic and life threatening infections," said Mattke.
In October of 2015, a student from Chico Junior High in Chico, California was hospitalized as a result of the Eraser Challenge. The 13-year-old student contracted Strep A Toxic Shock. It's likely the infection resulted from the germs on the eraser that the student rubbed against his arm.
So why are teens doing something so...stupid? Joelle Simpson, M.D. at Children's National Health System, notes that participation in the challenge may be a result of kids showing off and feeling peer pressure. “Peer pressure is no longer contained within the school yard, but it’s expanding into the virtual world of social media,” said Dr. Simpson. “Kids are always trying to up the ante when it comes to challenges like this, so it’s important for parents to be aware of what their children are engaging in.”
If you do notice a wound on your child's body from the Eraser Challenge, it's important to be proactive. Dr. Simpson recommends that you wash the area with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. If the wound doesn't start to heal within a few days, then you should follow up with a doctor.
This is far from the first ridiculous challenge that teens have come up with. Among the other more recent challenges are a Snapchat bullying game, a game in which teens dislocated their thumbs for fun, and even a social media insult trend called the "Huh Challenge." Obviously each of these challenges had serious emotional and physical effects, yet they gained enough popularity to be known nationally.
Dr. Simpson noted that it's important to talk with teens and children about the risk of the Eraser Challenge. Teens won't necessarily be open with their parents about the fact that they've taken part in the challenge. “It’s always on the parent to be vigilant and engage in talking to a child about any unusual scars or marks they might notice,” said Dr. Simpson. “Parents shouldn’t ignore things like this; being upfront and having an open conversation about what happened, and why this happened, can help families avoid similar problems in the future.”
The Eraser Challenge brings with it dangers of physical harm and even the risk of death. Schools are reaching out to parents to alert them of the resurgence of this challenge. Hopefully if parents talk with their kids and schools spread word of the dangers, the Eraser Challenge will lose popularity and eventually end.