Fire Challenge: A Life-Threatening Internet Challenge

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Fire Challenge: A Life-Threatening Internet Challenge

October 15, 2019
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Dangerous Social media challenges

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Table of Contents

Some kids are lighting themselves on fire or letting their friends light the match-- all in an attempt to get more attention online. The dangerous stunt, called the “Fire Challenge”, has been around for a while, but now new viral videos are showing up online. And new tweens and teens are finding themselves in the hospital after attempting this life-threatening social media challenge.

What is the Fire Challenge?

  • The Fire Challenge is the latest dangerous social media fad to become popular with tweens and teens
  • Like many of the social media challenges we’ve seen before, the Fire Challenge encourages students to film themselves performing life threatening activities in order to participate in the trend
  • Tweens and teens who participate in the challenge cover part of their body with a fire accelerant and light it on fire
  • Kids have easy access to accelerants like nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitizer
  • They will have a friend film themselves doing the stunt so they can post is to social media
  • Those participating in the challenge try to extinguish the flames before they incur serious burns
  • Many news reports show the challenge can easily escalate and turn life threatening
  • The challenge has been around for a few years but it is regaining popularity

Health officials issue warning about the Fire Challenge according to CBS News

KPIX 5 headline: Dangerous 'Fire Challenge" game trends among teens on social media; South Bay Fire officials issue warning

“A 15-year-old boy in Buffalo died of his injuries after reportedly participating in the fire challenge.”

“Another 15-year-old boy in Kentucky who learned of the stunt on Facebook and was badly burned when he tried it”

Source: CBS News

Newsweek reports on the dangers of the Fire Challenge

Newsweek headline: Michigan boy, 12, set on fire by friend for social media challenge-suffers second degree burns

“12-year-old Michigan boy has been seriously burned after a friend set him on fire as part of a social media challenge.”

“[He] was left with second degree burns and spent four days in hospital following the incident.”

Source: Newsweek

The Washington Post interviews mom of child harmed by the Fire Challenge

The Washington Post headline: She 'looked like a fireball': Internet 'fire challenge' leaves 12-year-old Detroit girl severly burned

“[The student] is in intensive care at a children’s hospital with nearly half her body covered in severe burns. It was the outcome of attempting a viral Internet dare known as the ‘fire challenge,’”

“It’s just one of numerous social-media-fed stunts — some harmless, some life-threatening — into which young people have been lured over the past few years.”

Source: The Washington Post

The Fire Challenge in the news:

NFPA and the Phoenix Society have issued official warnings against the phenomenon known as the ‘fire challenge’ trending on social media outlets... Many fire and life safety educators are wondering what actions can be taken to help stop this challenge.  Unfortunately, the answer to the question is complex and there is no single answer.

National Fire Protection Association

Similar attempts by other teens have resulted in emergency room visits all over the country, and authorities are urging parents to pay attention [to the Fire Challenge].


Of the countless challenges that have captivated teen video enthusiasts, the fire challenge is the most concerning yet given the devastating consequences that can result.

The County of Santa Clara, CA

A teen harmed by the Fire Challenge warns others, according to ABC

ABC News headline: 'Dumb Idea': Teen burned in fire challenge warns others

“Videos on YouTube are revealing a disturbing trend: the so-called fire challenge. Teenagers are setting themselves on fire and posting the video as a social media stunt. It has become so popular that a quick YouTube search for the term "fire challenge" turned up tens of thousands of videos.”

“[A student] did the challenge and ended up burning his waist and neck. Now he’s sounding the alarm, and has posted video of his burns as a warning.”

Source: ABC

Why should parents care?

  • This viral teen challenge is incredibly  dangerous and can be life threatening
  • This social media challenge isn’t limited to a certain area, it’s happening all over the country
  • The fire accelerants most commonly used in the challenge are easily accessible to most tweens and teens
  • Tweens and teens don’t understand risk the same way adults do
  • Parents should explain the consequences of dangerous social media trends and help them understand that fads like these come and go

What can parents do?

  • Follow our suggestions to help your child prepare for the responsibility of having a cell phone:
  • Ages 0-10: No phone
  • Age 10: Cell phone safety contract
  • Ages 10-13: Flip phone (SMS/text, phone calls)
  • Age 14: Smartphone (without social media apps installed)
  • Age 15: Smartphone (with positive social media apps installed)
  • Stay educated about viral social media challenges so you can be aware of what teens are doing online
  • Stay involved with your children and monitor their activity on social media.
  • Keep an eye out to see if they are engaging with any content related to this
  • Talk to your kids about social media challenges before they hear about them from their friends
  • The National Fire Protection Association recommends enlisting responsible peers to educate your kids. Share clips of other tweens and teens talking about the dangers of the challenge and why it’s not worth participating in


YouTube announced new community guidelines in early 2019 to crack down on dangerous or harmful videos, like people doing the Fire Challenge. But new videos keep popping up on popular apps and websites-- giving impressionable young people dangerous new ideas to get more likes or follows. It’s always better for kids to hear about dangerous topics from a trusted adult before they hear it from their friends or find out about it online.

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