By Marianne Mancusi Beach, GalTime.com
I remember when my brother went through his "pyro" stage as so many boys do as they grow older. He'd buy matches by the boxful and be fascinated watching them burn. Yes, it was stupid and risky--and my parents had no idea it was going on. Luckily, he eventually got bored and moved on without any permanent injury.
For me, it was bridge jumping in high school, into the river below. It was illegal and stupid and dangerous, but oh--what a thrill.
In any case, if we go back far enough, we can probably think of stupid things we did when we were young. But today's kids are getting even more daring. Because they aren't acting alone anymore. They're watching dangerous stunts, posted to YouTube and trying to recreate them at home. And doctors say they're seeing the results of these "experiments" in emergency rooms across the country.
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Case in point, ten year old Ryan of Florida. He's lucky to be alive after a bottle exploded in his face, shattering his nose, burning his skin and nearly blinding him. He and his friend were attempting to recreate something they saw online.
"When we put the ingredients in the bottle," he remembers, "the bottle got pressurized and eventually blew up."
His mom remembers the day as if it were yesterday. "It was the most horrible thing I had ever, ever seen before," she says. "He kept saying all I see is yellow. I can't see anything. All I see is yellow. And he's laying there bleeding. It was awful."
Stories like Ryan's are nothing new to Doctor Hank Mansour, Medical Director at the Burns Center at Saint Barnabus Hospital. He says he's seeing four times the amount of burn patients this year, versus previous years--resulting from failed YouTube related experiments.
"Since they don't see the aftermath, they don't see the disaster cases, they only see the successful cases, they think it's harmless," he says. "They think it's cute, they think it's a good thing to do."
Just a quick search for "fire tricks" on YouTube and you'll find hundreds of examples. In addition there are dangerous stunts involving cars and motorcycles as well. "All these extreme things that they are doing are all like a new culture because they can publish it, they can show it to a lot of people," says Dr. Mansour.
So why are kids drawn to this kind of risky behavior? Family therapist Clair Mellenthin says it's mostly a matter of peer pressure and development factors.
"Their brains are not fully developed at this point to fully grasp the cause and effect of their actions," she explains. "Kids also think that they're invincible and nothing that they are going to do is that bad or will cause harm."
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And now, with the Internet, the whole world becomes a stage. "So instead of being limited to their tiny little neighborhood or geographic area, and kind of the stunts that are being played in the neighborhood," she says. "Now they have exposure to what kids are doing and adults are doing worldwide."
So what can parents do to protect their kids? First, consider parental filters for your computer. And monitor your child's Internet history--see what sites they're visiting and what videos they're watching. Also, keep an eye out of any injuries that seem out of the ordinary.
And talk to them about the dangerous on a regular basis.
"Not to scare them," adds Mellenthin, "but to let them know that there can be significant consequences to the choices that they're making."
As for Ryan, reconstructive surgery was able to fix his nose. And his mom fixed their computer to have parental controls. Of course, Ryan says he's already learned his lesson... the hard way. And he wants to warn other kids of the dangers.
"If anyone were going to try it," he says, "I would suggest not. Because obviously you've seen what happened to me."
Have you seen stupid kid tricks on YouTube that may you cringe? Would you know if your kid
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