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The teenage brain is primed to take any social media challenge, no matter how half-baked or dangerous

@jessfirger

SELFIE-OBSESSED: From posing in dangerous places, like this railing over Lake Michigan, to setting themselves on fire and jumping into a pool, teens are going to extremes for internet adulation.
JIM YOUNG/REUTERS

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if you took a can of aerosol hairspray or air freshener and sprayed it directly at a cigarette lighter’s flame? Any rational adult is likely to say, Nothing good. But if you’re a teen, you might think, Great snap!

Since mid-March, social media outlets have been flooded with videos of young people creating blowtorch-size dragon-breath puffs of fire by putting flame into contact with flammable liquid (usually while indoors). It began when one teen Instagram user gave the stunt a try and tagged the video post #FireSprayChallenge.

The online dare spread rapidly, and now there are over 4,000 posts on Instagram with the #FireSprayChallenge hashtag. The daring feat is an offshoot of the #FireChallenge, another popular and even more dangerous social media craze that involves dousing oneself with a flammable liquid like rubbing alcohol, then lighting your torso or limbs on fire before jumping into a shower or pool. That challenge has resulted in a seemingly endless stream of reports of teens with third- or fourth-degree burns. Last year, an 11-year-old boy in the U.K. underwent a skin graft after the challenge went terribly wrong. A 15-year-old in Buffalo, New York, died from injuries he suffered after taking the dare. Fire safety divisions in several states have issued emergency warnings about the challenge.

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The Teenagers - Ask a bedraggled parent “What do teens think?” and you just might get, “They think?” But what they know and feel and do is vitally important. After all, they are the future. Just maybe not yours.
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