This week, the Internet has seen two more people fall victim to the understanding that they can recreate challenge or stunt videos from YouTube without consequence or harm. Whilst they both vary GREATLY in how risky or life-threatening they may be, the point remains that whether you’re duct taping up your entire body or cutting off all your hair on camera, perhaps we need to talk about who is to blame when these imitations go wrong – the YouTuber, the copycat or the parent/guardian.
Before we start to breakdown why each of these people could be to blame, we present you with six very different cases of when people have innocently copied stunts and challenges they have seen on the Internet – but with devastating effects.
BE ADVISED: Some of these examples are horrific and involve the discussion of death or bodily harm. Read with discretion.
The hair cutting tutorial.
Is this how you started, EmmaLee Wolf ?
Posted by Debbie Arnold on Friday, 15 January 2016
We’ve all watched the likes of Zoella and Kandee Johnson completely transform themselves on the Internet into stunning versions of real, everyday people. But what happens when consistent viewing of these guru’s deludes young children into thinking it’s their fate to become the next style sensation?
The beautiful angel above is called Aubrey, and she thinks just that will happen to her. This video was supposed to be her first YouTube beauty tutorial, thanks to her mum setting up her camera to film the aspiring mini vlogger. However, when mum turned her back, Aubrey decided her first video would be about fashioning herself a new hair style…
Whilst the reaction to the video has only been mild embarrassment (and luckily her hair will grow back!), it begs the question of how influential YouTubers really can be – let’s not forget that video when a curled literally burnt the hair off her head after watching a YouTube tutorial of a curling iron!
The Kylie Jenner lip challenge.
We won’t bother trying to explain to you what the Kylie Jenner lip challenge is because we respect you as thoroughly intellectual Internet connoisseurs. But what the hell were people were doing to their faces back in early 2015? People kept trying to suck their way to the perfect Kylie Jenner lips and suffered the disastrous results on pretty much every single social media platform available.
The trend sped up significantly when prominent YouTubers such as Miranda Sings, Troye Sivan and Shane Dawson decided to give it a go in front of their millions of subscribers. Did it influence thousands more fans to give the challenge a try? It’s more than likely that it did, so we’re just thankful that all you’d suffer from with this lip challenge was a hideous face hickey. It could have been far worse after all…
The Duct Tape challenge.
When 14-year-old Skylar Fish decided to replicate a popular challenge video from YouTube with his friends, he literally could never have predicted that it would hospitalise him. He tried to re-do the Duct Tape challenge with some of his friends outside their local school by getting them to fully tape up his body and film his attempt to escape. Skylar ended up losing his balance, crashing into a window pane and almost bleeding to death when he crushed his eye socket.
The challenge, as seen by the likes of Bashurverse and Prank VS Prank, is seemingly presented as harmless fun amongst friends, however it’s important to remember that these videos are highly crafted and are often set up in risk assessed and controlled environments. Whilst Skylar is not wholly to blame for his actions, his parents were quick to blame YouTubers for setting a bad example. Did they consider that these ‘influencers’ had already thgouth of the risk associated with the challenges and had therefore adapted it accordingly – either by sitting on chairs to escape or by being away from glass or other sharp objects.
We wish Skylar the best of luck in his recovery, having had surgery to remove blood from inside his brain, but we must ask ourselves who was truly to blame for this freak accident – the copycat or the influencer?
The salt and ice challenge.
This image above is of a 12-year-old boy in Pittsburgh after trying out the incredibly dangerous but globally popular Salt and Ice challenge. After trying to replicate the pain test with his friends, he suffered second-degree burns and required immediate medical attention. But who’s to blame here?
First of all, the science behind the challenge immediately identifies it as a health risk – the chemical reaction between the salt and ice lowers the skin temperature to freezing thus causing highly painful burns, blisters and even frostbite. Big time YouTubers posted their attempt at the challenge on social media, and if you consider the audience reach when you combine GloZell, Connor Franta and Leda Muir you start to gauge a picture of how viewed this trend became.
In this specific example, the anonymous family have since spoke up about their ordeal; “Videos on YouTube, Facebook and other social media do not show the terrible injuries that can result. We are grateful that our son is recovering and hope that sharing his story will stop other young people from attempting this stunt”. Powerful words pointing the blame towards YouTube creators, but are they really at fault here?
The asphyxiation high.
When you type ‘how to pass out’ into YouTube, you get ‘about 9,520,000’ results of videos giving tutorials on how to force your body to shut down in order to achieve a rush of euphoria, or what some people consider a legal high. However when 15-year-old David Nuno tried out one of these tutorials in his room with some friends, no one could have predicted his death.
When David lost consciousness, his body fell away from the intended arms of his friends and instead landed directly on top of a nearby glass which slashed open his neck. After being rushed to hospital, David later died from his injuries. The idea to do this stunt came directly from instructional videos on YouTube that are freely accessible to the general public in order to teach them how to pass out – even with disclaimers on these videos, perhaps they are massively to blame.
In response, YouTube released a statement saying that “Community Guidelines prohibit videos intended to encourage dangerous activities that risk serious physical harm. We routinely remove material… and we encourage users to flag video for our attention”, however they clearly still seem to appear on the website.
The rope swing of death.
First off, this video was created by DevinSuperTramp, a professionally trained and highly skilled stunt performer. His iconic rope swing from this Arch in Utah gathered over 11 million views when the video was posted – however it has since spawned NUMEROUS copycats.
One particular attempt was done by 22-year-old Kyle Lee Stocking, a daredevil who unfortunately miscalculated the amount of rope he would need in order to complete the swing and ended up slamming 110-foot straight down into the ground. He died on the scene.
A commenter on Devin’s original video was at the scene of Kyle’s death, and had this to say; “I was there and held his limp body with others until he passed. No one is at fault, it was a action with a consequence and should be left at that. These professionals are not to blame for what they do and should be done with extreme caution if it is copied. What these guys do really is amazing but they should not be blamed for this movie. NEVERTRYTHIS.” We don’t need to say anymore.
So where does the blame fall when imitation goes wrong?
When YouTubers upload videos of their dangerous stunts, funny challenges or viral trends, should they be accompanied with a disclaimer, or at least a note that these stunts were undertaken within a safely controlled environment? Particularly on Devin’s rope video, there is no disclaimer stating that Devin is professionally trained or that he advises others not to attempt the rope swing – so does this put him in the wrong position as an influencer?
In an age in which parental controls and NSFW content is already a massive debate across the entirety of the Internet, should a new set of limitations be put on YouTubers who create potentially dangerous content to spare parents/guardians from constant online policing? By creating an environment in which children are free to access and explore the Internet, such as the case with little Aubrey cutting all her hair off, are these parents to blame for not stepping in sooner when people decide to recreate random things they have seen online?
Finally, is it the fault of the people at home mindlessly watching people upload risk-fuelled content onto the Internet that are to blame? Is the line between reality and fantasy so blurred nowadays that people are unable to spot safely controlled stunts, therefore allowing audiences to interpret these videos as easy to replicate?
Ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own actions and the things we choose to do in our free time. But if common sense is so important, why do people continue to make rash decisions to partake in dangerous activities purely because they’ve seen someone else do it YouTube?
So what do you think? Does the blame lie with the parents, the copycats or the creators themselves?