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Chip Challenge Causes Catastrophic Consequences

By Michael DeRienzo, Esq. | Last updated on

It is not easy to be a teenager. While that statement has always been true, perhaps this generation has faced more unexpected and unprecedented challenges than most. Between the Covid-19 Pandemicopioids and other drugsgun violencestudent loansschool safety, and just trying to be a normal teenager, teens today are in the thick of it.

While there is no denying that these topics have cause serious, irreparable harm to teens, social media may be the biggest threat of all right now.

The Challenge With Challenges

One of the largest social media platforms right now is TikTok. A Chinese-owned video platform company, TikTok has been the heart of the social media debate for a while now. Various state and federal governments have attempted to ban the use of TikTok, but the platform continues to grow in popularity. In fact, TikTok might be one of the most important tools to learn and use if you plan on becoming an influencer.

One of the reasons TikTok became so popular was the introduction of the "TikTok Challenge." Just like it sounds, people are challenged to record themselves doing something specific. It's not just teenagers doing it, either. Everyone from famous chefs to award-winning celebrities have engaged in this trend.

What happens, though, when the challenge becomes too dangerous? Are teenagers capable of distinguishing between innocent fun and risky behavior when it comes to a challenge?

Spicy Chips Recalled Following One Chip Challenge Death

One popular TikTok challenge is the "One Chip Challenge." Essentially, individuals are challenged to eat one of the spiciest chips in the world, a Paqui tortilla chip made with two of the spiciest peppers in the world. While the company says that the challenge is intended only for adults, it has become a popular trend amongst teenagers.

In the past month in Massachusetts alone, there has been two instances of injury and death amongst teenagers.

On September 1, 2023, Harris Wolobah, a 14-year-old 10th-grader, died after partaking in the "One Chip Challenge." While there have been no direct findings of correlation between Wolobah's death and the challenge, the Worcester District Attorney warned parents to not allow their children to do the challenge.

In response to Wolobah's death, on September 7, Paqui voluntarily recalled the chips from shelves. However, the recall failed to reach a Massachusetts middle school in time. On September 11, 2023, ten middle school students were sent home in physical distress after engaging in the challenge during lunch.

Social Media or Social Harm?

With the introduction of social media, there has been countless debates as to whether it has caused more harm then good. Pictures of parties not invited to, edited videos of flawless models, and other unrealistic matters can cause teenagers to suffer serious mental health issues. And who is to blame when something goes wrong?

Just like artificial intelligence, whether it was right or wrong to introduce it in the first place is irrelevant. Now that it is here, companies and influencers must be wary to navigate this emerging area of the law. Social media is here to stay, and it will require the work of legislatures, schools, parents, students, and responsible businesses to work together to help protect children.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether TikTok, Paqui, or particular influencers could be found legally liable for the death of Wolobah.

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