Thinking back to my days in middle school, I remember passing time until my dad came to pick me up at a nearby library. I would usually do homework, though I do recall days escaping to the nearest McDonald's with friends to "live on the edge." I also remember partaking in the most foolish dares -- like that silly salt and ice challenge that left a scar on my left arm you can still see today. Sadly, it looks like we haven't progressed much in the 20 years it's been since I sported a JanSport backpack, as tweens and teens are injuring themselves by doing the dangerous "Eraser Challenge," which is actually a throwback "game" that might ring a bell.
The Eraser Challenge is nothing new, as the dare of rubbing your skin with an eraser has been around for some time. As idiotic as it sounds, it seems to be making a comeback that's putting kids at risk of developing scars and burn marks -- or worse.
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East Iredell Middle School has been pleading with parents to speak to their children about the challenge after posting this photo on Facebook of a child with burn marks. According to the North Carolina school, students have been turning up with "serious burns" that are cause for great concern.
Sure, the "Eraser Challenge" might sound harmless, but the effects can be more frightening than just some mark and a silly story you can tell your grandkids as a bedtime story.
A 13-year-old reportedly contracted Strep A Toxic Shock in 2015 thanks to the Eraser Challenge and a dirty eraser that left the junior high student fighting for his life in a California hospital.
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Pediatrician Dr. David Arkin once warned families about the dangers of the Eraser Challenge, telling WRIC 8 News in 2014 that the effects could lead to "serious infection." The doctor also added, "Some blood bourne infections like HIV could certainly spread that way."
Dr. Angela Mattke informs USA Today that risks associated with the "Eraser Challenge" are due to breaking down the skin barrier that helps prevent infection. "Burns, whether from heat or chemicals, result in a break of the natural skin barrier," Dr. Mattke notes. "The skin barrier's job is to keep bad things out like potential infection-causing bacteria (that live normally on the skin)."
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All of this talk about kids taking on these challenges makes me anxious ... likely because I was one of the kids who tried these schoolyard dares. I was young, obviously still honing the powers of common sense, and didn't think it was that big of a deal.
Looking back, I don't think I ever spoke to my parents about dares and challenges like this -- but I kind of wish I had before trying one. Maybe that's the silver lining: that moms and dads today can try to get ahead of potentially dangerous situations, like the Eraser Challenge, by staying abreast of what's going on and speaking and sharing stories like this with their children. (I always knew social media would come in handy.)
Sadly, peer pressure and the desire to fit in are timeless factors at play in schools. But maybe, just maybe, sharing the serious consequences and dangers of a "game" thought to be fun can be the determining factor that makes a child say, "Yeah, no thanks."