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The death of a 7-year-old girl in Brazil has aroused alarm over the “challenges” that circulate in Internet videos.
Adrielly Gonçalves died in a hospital in São Bernardo do Campo, in the state of Sao Paulo, after suffering a cardiac arrest at home.
According to a text that one of her relatives posted on Facebook, the little girl inhaled aerosol deodorant as part of a “challenge” she saw in a YouTube video.
“She was an innocent girl, she put the deodorant directly in her mouth and she fainted, we have to alert the parents and help them pay attention to the content their children are looking for on the internet,” the post reads .
Several YouTubers published videos in which they inhale the spray in large quantities. They had thousands of views. But they are not the only “challenges” that concern.
Thousands and thousands of videos
The “deodorant challenge” is one of the many viral challenges that are found on the web.
Some encourage their participants to keep breathing until they are unconscious. There is also the “condom game” , which is based on introducing a condom through the nostril and extracting it through the mouth.
Others involve ingesting considerable amounts of cinnamon powder or alcoholic beverages.
All these challenges are serious health threats, but they are easily found on the Internet.
The DimiCuida Institute, a non-profit organization in Brazil, works with young people and parents to raise awareness about the dangers of this type of videos available online.
The organism assures that in a week it counted about 24,000 videos in Portuguese that expose “games of the faint” – that consists of simulating a drowning until inducing to the faint – and another 800,000 in English .
The so-called “game of death” or “suffocation” is also popular in Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Spain .
“The number of videos increases dramatically if we have similar challenges in mind, such as the condom or cinnamon, which can also cause suffocation,” psychologist Fabiana Vasconcelos, the group’s spokesperson, told BBC.
Vasconcelos explained that there are invitations to participate in these challenges on social networks like Instagram and Snapchat, and in forums about games.
But the main source is YouTube .
A year ago, a 14-year-old boy was found dead on the east coast of the Brazilian city of São Vicente.
He had a sheet wrapped around his neck and the police thought he had participated in some “challenge”.
“Many accidents happen in this way, children participate in this because a friend asks for it, for example,” Marcos Palumbo, spokesman for the São Paulo Fire Department, told BBC.
“The results are usually pretty bad: life or death injuries, ” he added.
The challenge of deodorant is dangerous because of the high levels of alcohol present in this type of product, explained Anthony Wong, director of the School of Medicine of the University of São Paulo.
“Levels vary between 70% and 90% , are much higher than those of liquors like whiskey or absinthe.Inhaled, the volume of alcohol is highly absorbed, causing inflammation of the larynx and cardiac arrest,” said Wong.
What to do in case of emergency?
In situations like these, doctors recommend going to the hospital as soon as possible, as the patient may need urgent care that may include intubation, Wrong explained.
Experts also advise against inducing vomiting in case of ingestion of alcohol or toxic products, as this can worsen the airway obstruction.
It is also important not to offer anything to the victim without medical help.
“Substances can have different reactions in different bodies and each person requires a type of treatment, so it is essential to help,” says Palumbo.
How to prevent your children from participating in these challenges?
“Children are digital natives and have easy access to videos, although many parents do not know how to control what their children see on the internet,” says Vasconcelos, of DimiCuida.
Prevention, says the psychologist, begins by respecting the minimum agerecommended for the use of social networks and other platforms. For example, WhatsApp is 16 and Facebook is 13 .
Vasconcelos also suggests that parents and guardians accompany children in their lives online just as they do outside the network.
“In the same way you ask who you’re dating, you should ask who your friends are on the internet and what videos you saw today , and propose to see them together.”
The specialist believes that prohibiting children from watching dangerous videos does not work.
“You need to create an environment in which content (or videos) is debated without judgment, as part of a critical reflection that children and adolescents have not yet developed.”
“Something like, ‘ how old is the person in this video? It does not seem like a kid like you, why is he doing that?’ And, especially, ‘is that risk worth it?’ or ‘is it a good idea to share that content?’ .
Vasconcelos also suggests that, instead of talking about death – a very abstract concept for children and adolescents – it is better to reinforce consequences such as never being able to play again.
And recommends reporting videos with dangerous content.
BBC Brasil contacted YouTube and asked those responsible for the video platform about the security procedures to follow.
In a statement, the company stated that “our policies restrict content designed to incite illegal or dangerous activities that pose a risk of serious injury or death.”
“Any user can report this type of content and our team analyzes these reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
YouTube, however, did not explain how many videos with viral “challenges” it was able to eliminate.