How to Protect Against Viral Pranks Aimed at Kids

Tech Update
The latest viral challenge that lures teens to drink food dye and turn urine different colors can be damaging to kids, according to research studies.  Artificial food dyes “may cause allergic reactions in some people and hyperactivity in sensitive children,” according to Becky Bell, MS, RD, in Healthline.
Simple steps can arm parents with information to guard against viral dangers.“As a mother and an IT professional, I love helping parents protect kids from risky challenges that go viral,” said Sarah Kimmel, who founded Family Tech Zone to help parents navigate through computer and Internet issues.

“Four steps parents can do today to protect their children are to:

  1. Get on the same social platforms your children are using so you can stay updated on the latest challenges;
  2. Talk to your kids about challenges on the Internet before they get lured in;
  3. Discuss previous online challenges: what they are, why they are dangerous, and how they can cause permanent damage. Most kids just don’t understand the consequences of their actions; and
  4. Make a Technology Contract with your kids that says they will not mimic or duplicate any activities they see on social media and list consequences,” Kimmel said.

A free, downloadable technology contract is available on

Other viral challenges gaining online traction include:

  • having a friend jump between two others who kick their feet out, causing the person to hit the ground, often headfirst;
  • swinging a towel or sweater around a friend and knocking them to the ground; and
  • shorting electrical outlets by sliding a penny on an electrical outlet with something plugged in, causing a spark.

“The problem with the penny challenge is that the spark can start a house fire,” she said. “All of the others have obvious dangers, also.

“When you’re equipped with those four steps, you can better influence your family members to stay safe while online.”

A digital parenting coach and family tech expert, Kimmel is a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses for 16 years. She also founded Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on TV and has consulted globally with tech companies, such as Microsoft, Dell, Samsung, Verizon and Lenovo. Visit for more information.

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