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Parenting You Need To Know: NekNominate Drinking Game Plays Out on Social Media

NekKnominate Deadly Drinking Game Playing Out on Social Media

Photo courtesy of Leticia Barr

Move over keg stands, funnels, quarters, and beer pong, there’s a new drinking game in town and it’s called, NekNominate. The premise of the game is simple — capture a video of yourself drinking and once you’re done, challenge a friend to do something more outrageous in their video then you did. The point? To ridicule each other via Facebook and Twitter if one doesn’t comply to videotaping themselves. The game originated in Australia, and then quickly spread to the United Kingdom via social media. The concern is that this dangerous game, that CNN reports has claimed 5 lives, will hop the pond to the United States next.

A quick YouTube search of NekNominate turns up a wealth of videos — a challenge issued to do something more outrageous than drinking a pint of Sambuca mixed with another spirit in 24 hours, two guys helping lift their buddy upside down to help him drink out of a toilet bowl, a woman spending a minute strolling through a store before discarding her trench coat and popping open a tall can of beer and chugging it in her skivvies in the produce aisle.

I watched these NekNominate videos on YouTube with equal amounts of shock and horror. NekNominate brings up a whole host of issues, like kids being harassed and bullied by friends via Twitter and Facebook if they don’t complete the challenge, the pressure to underage drink by kids who want to seem cool to their peers, and the use of social media in general as the vehicle for the challenge.

While some have asked Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to take action against those using their social media channels to post things related to the dangerous game, The Guardian reported that Facebook said it was “reviewing videos linked to the craze, but the posting of such material is not a breach of our rules or community standards.” Facebook’s in-house rules define harmful content as: organizing world violence, theft, property destruction, or something that directly inflicts emotional distress. A number of NekNominate pages are still active.  The statement Facebook gave to CNN stated, “We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but behavior which some people may find offensive or controversial is not always necessarily against our rules.”

As a parent, I’d like the social media platforms to take some responsibility to ensure that this dangerous trend doesn’t perpetuate itself on their channels, but at the same time, I know that I have a responsibility to raise confident kids who can exercise good judgment in any situation.

When I sit down with my kids and give them my full attention, they talk. They’re keen observers of the world around them, and want to discuss topics that are both light and weighing heavily on their 10- and 7-year-old minds. These days we’re talking a lot about friendships. My tween daughter has daily tales of how she and her best friend are navigating a tricky peer situation with a girl from their class, who much to their dismay, follows them around, yet they don’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her. And as for my second grade son, he sometimes shares recess incidents where friends want him to play a certain game, but he’s just not in the mood to do so.

I like to think that our conversations about in-person friendships lay the groundwork for the friendships that will exist online. Teaching my kids how to be good friends in person will hopefully translate to the online world too, where they can feel confident and stand up for themselves and their friends, without feeling the pressure to sext, NekNominate, or engage in the next risky online behavior

Even though my kids are only in elementary school, we also talk about alcohol. Being keen observers of their environment, my kids notice neon beer signs on the wall of our favorite Mexican restaurant, ask about the different types of glasses at a place setting when we go out to a nice dinner, and question what our cocktails taste like. Just as my parents were open about talking about alcohol with my brother and me, my husband and I like to have an open dialogue with our children, too.

According to Haley Kilpatrick, Founder and CEO of the national nonprofit organization, Girl Talk, we’re being smart by seizing upon our children’s most preventative years. She says kids are primed to learn about healthy and balanced behaviors between ages 6-10. As they grow into their formative years (ages 9-14), Kirkpatrick says this is when they model what it means to be a friend, decide right from wrong, and develop a high or low self-esteem. Preventative and formative years lay the groundwork for the kinds of behaviors children engage in as teens.

Through her research with girls, Kirkpatrick found that “teen girls who have a negative view of themselves are four times more likely to take part in activities that they’ve ended up regretting later.” She also discovered that the top wish among all teen girls is for their parents to communicate better through more frequent and open conversations. Girls wanted parents to keep it real by being consistent and talking to them before someone else does.

Ralph Blackman, also weighed in. Blackman is President and CEO of The Century Council, a national not-for-profit funded by distillers, and dedicated to the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking. “Time and time again, research shows parents are the leading influence in their kid’s decision to drink — or not to drink — alcohol,” said Blackman. “This information holds even more significance when placed into the context of this disturbing, peer-pressure-fueled trend because it shows parents hold more influence over their children than their child’s peers. This is why it is so critical for parents to talk early and often with their kids about the consequences of underage drinking.”

While new trends like NekNominate are certainly shocking, and make me wonder what additional tools in my parenting arsenal I can use to instill some confidence and good sense in my own kids, maybe it’s just as easy as sitting down and talking early and often like I’ve been doing all along.

Other posts by Leticia you might like:

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