The Eraser Challenge Returns—What Families Need to Know

Social media “challenges” can spread quickly. Some, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, are relatively harmless and can make a difference in the world. Others, like the Cinnamon Challenge, can have serious consequences. Illinois PTA works to keep families informed about these activities that children are often engaging in without adults’ knowledge, such as with the Choking Game.

Now, a “game” that has been around for many years is making a resurgence on social media. The Eraser Challenge involves rubbing an eraser across the skin while having to do or say something. One common thing is to recite the alphabet while doing the challenge. The challenge is sometimes done as a competition to see who drops out first.

The result of participating in the Eraser Challenge is often a burn or an open wound. While an eraser burn may not sound serious, doctors are warning that they can be extremely painful and lead to scarring. In some cases, there have been serious infections that have resulted in hospitalization. In 2015, a high school student in California was hospitalized for toxic shock syndrome from a strep infection of an eraser challenge wound.

Parents should keep an eye out for injuries particularly on their children’s arms, often on the softer inside of the arm or the back of the hand. If you notice such an injury on your child, ask them how it happened. Wash the injured area with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and follow up with your child’s doctor if it doesn’t start to heal in a few days.

Parenting Your Teen in an Age of Social Media

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-11-35-04-amSocial media is one of the great parenting challenges since most of us grew up well before social media and always connected devices were common. Teaching your child how to be responsible online will continue to be a struggle as new social media platforms create new challenges. National PTA’s The Smart Talk, created in partnership with LifeLock, can help families set up guidelines for online behavior.

Kari Kampakis, a blogger and author of the book Parenting Your Teen in an Age of Social Media, recently posted a list of five guiding principles to use in teaching our children to be safe and responsible online. These principles are aimed at having our children develop the habits and skills to know how to have their online presence be safe and healthy, just like we teach our children to be safe in the real world. These five principles are:

  1. Remember your reputation is at stake. Every choice you make reveals your character.
  2. Consider three questions before you post: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
  3. Seek to be kind, not popular.
  4. If you aren’t feeling the love, stay off social media.
  5. Social media should supplement your relationships, not replace them.

Mrs. Kampakis’s article goes into depth on each of these principles. Each point also provides a jumping off point for you to have a conversation with your child about social media, online behavior, and responsibility. Finally, it is important that we as adults set a good example of positive behavior online. Our children learn much more from what we do than from what we say.

Photo courtesy of Wesley Fryer under Creative Commons license.

Cyberbullying is Not a Technology Issue

Cyberbullying—bullying behavior committed through social media, apps, and other online activities—is increasingly common. According to several research studies, over half of teens say they have been victims of cyberbullying. Illinois PTA has provided information for families on cyberbullying and how to identify the warning signs of cyberbullying. Because of its online nature, it’s easy to think of cyberbullying as a technology, but a recent article on LinkedIn by Reginald S. Corbitt says that cyberbullying is a social issue, not a technological one.

Mr. Corbitt, the founder of SafeCyber, an organization that aims to educate communities about online safety, notes that cyberbullying is not separate from bullying. It is simply bullying in another form, and as such is about relationship power and control. Such bullying is also known as Relational Bullying. Relational Bullying is more common among girls, and uses social manipulation such as group exclusion, spreading rumors, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to dislike a person. It can be used by bullies to improve their social standing and to control others.

Mr. Corbitt suggests two keys to addressing cyberbullying. The first is teaching social and emotional resilience in our schools and communities. Illinois PTA has discussed how to build social and emotional learning and problem solving skills in children, and Illinois was the first state in the nation to have social and emotional learning standards for all grades from Pre-K through high school. These skills provide students the tools they need to address, prevent, and intervene in bullying and cyberbullying situations.

The second key is creating partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations like PTA that allow for open discussions of bullying both online and offline and provide opportunities to education everyone involved in a child’s life on the topic. As Mr. Corbitt notes, one middle school principal in Maryland states that he and his administration spend 85% of their time dealing with conflicts between students that began on social media or in text messages. National PTA’s Connect for Respect is a ready-to-use program to facilitate discussions among families and among students on bullying issues.

Finally, Mr. Corbitt notes that because cyberbullying is about behavior and not technology, it is important that efforts to address the problem focus on the enhancement of positive relationships and the development of behavioral skills. He also notes that it is also important for adults to set an example with their behavior, as our children will do what you do quicker than they will do what you say.

Know the Cyberbullying Warning Signs

Bullying on the playground or in the classroom can be seen. Cyberbullying—bullying online through social media, apps, and other online activities—is a lot harder for teachers or parents to spot. A 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicated that 15% of high school students had experienced cyberbullying in the past year.

Most of the time, teachers and families only find out about cyberbullying after a physical altercation at school or some other social function. Since parents and other adults in children’s lives don’t have experience from their own childhood to draw on when dealing with cyberbullying and likely aren’t even aware of the latest app, much less its potential for harm, it is important to learn the warning signs of cyberbullying.

The Cyberbullying Research Center has an information sheet for families detailing the warning signs of your child being cyberbullied or being a cyberbully themselves. The signs your child may be being cyberbullied include:

  • Unexpectedly stop using their device(s)
  • Appearing nervous or jumpy when using their device(s)
  • Appearing uneasy about going to school or outside in general
  • Appearing emotionally upset after being online (including online gaming)
  • Becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members
  • Frequently calls or texts from school requesting to go home ill

Illinois PTA has shared how to handle cyberbullying previously, which included additional resources: National PTA’s Connect for Respect program, stopbullying.gov cyberbullying resources, and other materials from the Cyberbullying Research Center in addition to their warning signs sheet. All of these resources can help you be informed and deal with a cyberbullying problem with your child.