Posted on: February 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm
Last updated: October 14, 2020 at 5:55 pm

Pranks have been a long-time part of human culture, perhaps as long as humans have existed. There have been many iconic practical jokes over the years that have made headlines- like in 1957 when the BBC famously ran a story teaching viewers how to grow their own spaghetti tree, or in 1980 when they claimed that the face of Big Ben was going to be changed to a digital clock [1].

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There are many harmless pranks out there, like putting toothpaste on someone’s door handle, filling someone’s room with cups filled with water, gift-wrapping their car, or playing Russian Roulette with hard-boiled eggs. But when do pranks cross the line from being funny to being mean, or downright dangerous?

Many kids are now using the app TikTok to make funny videos to share with their friends, but more and more of these videos are being made at the cost of participants’ safety.

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The Skull Breaker Challenge

One of the latest trends on TikTok is called the Skull Breaker Challenge. The challenge involves three people- two who are “in the know”, or the prankers, and a third unsuspecting victim, the prankee. 

The three participants stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a line, with the unknowing individual in the center. This third person is told that they are doing a jump challenge, wherein all three of them are going to jump at the same time to see who can get the most height.

Another person, presumably whoever is holding the camera, counts them down. On three, when they are all supposed to jump, the two on either side hold back and instead kick the person in the middle’s legs out in front of them so they fall on their back.

Many of these videos have been filmed with disastrous consequences. Several young people, most of them adolescents or young teenagers, have ended up with severe injuries as a result of the prank, some of them ending up in the emergency room [2].

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Kids are Getting Serious Injuries

Valerie Hudson’s son was one of the unwitting victims of such a prank. Once his legs were kicked out from underneath him, he landing square on his back and hit his head on the pavement. When he attempted to stand up, he lost consciousness and fell forward, landing on his face. The young boy sustained a head injury, has stitches in his face, and severe cuts inside his mouth [3].

Another thirteen-year-old girl, Kathleen DeJesus became temporarily paralyzed when she found herself the unknowing participant of the skull breaker challenge.

“I was thinking, like, I feel like I was going to die,” DeJesus said. “I was paralyzed. I fell, I had a concussion, and I was numb, I couldn’t feel my legs, my foot, my hands, nothing.” [4]

When a Prank Becomes Bullying

Pranks can be harmless fun between friends, but when it becomes targeted, mean, and dangerous, it is no longer funny but is a serious form of bullying. 

Pranks take advantage of power dynamics. You wouldn’t prank your boss, for example, but you would prank your co-worker. Unfortunately, in a group setting, it is usually the dominant group members who pick on the weaker ones, and this creates a culture of bullying and abuse [5].

Authorities, and even hospital workers and medical professionals are speaking up about the cruel trend, and warning parents how dangerous the activity can be.

“You could hit the back of your head and that could cause anything from a skull fracture to the brain bleeding to a concussion and you can even have a neck injury,” explained Mike Patrick, an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “You can literally break your back.” [2]

Parents need to be talking with their children about the dangers of such a prank and educate them on the prevention of such injuries.

“Just having transparent real conversations with your kids is always important,” said Patrick. “A conversation will not put that idea into their heads.” [2]

Keep Reading: Doctors Warn Teens Not To Take Part in the Dangerous ‘Shell On’ Snapchat Challenge

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!