What Parents Should Know About the Duct Tape Challenge

duct tape
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While some online challenges contribute to a good cause (like the Ice Bucket Challenge), other social media dares serve no real purpose. And some of them, like the duct tape challenge, could be quite dangerous.

Despite the risks, social media fuels the challenge. Teens dare one another to try it, and many of them share their videos in an attempt to gain a piece of viral fame.

And while some parents may think the duct tape challenge is harmless fun, some teens are getting hurt. And it’s important for parents to understand the risks involved so that they can talk to their teens about the dangers.

What Is the Duct Tape Challenge?

The duct tape challenge involves teens wrapping someone up in duct tape. They might bind their hands and their feet. Or, they may tape a teen to a chair—or even the wall. Then, the individual wrapped in tape tries to escape.

Some teens spend hours trying to wiggle their way out, while others use dangerous stunts to gain freedom.

Teens record themselves trying to "escape the tape" and post the video online. Although the height of the trend was around 2016 to 2018, many videos are still being uploaded and shared on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube.

As the challenge continues to grow, teens continue to try and outdo one another. Consequently, the challenges have grown increasingly risky over time.

Safety Issues Associated With the Duct Tape Challenge

In 2016, 14-year-old Skylar Fish participated in the duct tape challenge. He fell while trying to break free.

He hit his head on a window frame and smashed into some concrete. He crushed his left eye socket and experienced head trauma. He underwent several surgeries over the next year, and doctors have warned the family he may never regain sight in his left eye.

Skylar’s family decided to share his story to serve as a warning about the dangers of the duct tape challenge. But not everyone is listening.

In fact, many teens are now posting their mishaps with the challenge online. If you search for “duct tape challenge gone wrong” you’ll find almost a million videos on YouTube that show teens vomiting, crying, and falling down throughout the challenge.

Talk to Your Teen About the Dangers

Clearly, the duct tape challenge isn’t the only dangerous activity teens are encouraging one another to do. There are also challenges like the Cinnamon Challenge, the Salt and Ice Challenge, and the Condom Challenge—which can all be harmful.

As these trends begin to fade, there’s no doubt that new challenges will surface. And there’s a good chance your teen will hear about them before you do.

You can’t monitor your teen’s activities all the time. But, you can give your teen the skills and tools they need to make healthy choices. Talk to your teen about the dangers associated with activities like the duct tape challenge.

Here are some important talking points:

  • Ask your teen if they know anyone who participates in these challenges. A good way to start the conversation is to say, “I just heard about something called the duct tape challenge. Are kids at your school doing it?”
  • Ask your teen why they think people participate in these types of challenges. Your teen may be able to give you some insight into why teens take part. Whether they say teens are bored or they are striving to become YouTube stars, listen to their ideas.
  • What do you think about kids who do those things? Ask for their opinion before you share your thoughts. See if they think the teens who participate are funny, bored, or making poor choices.
  • Discuss how to recognize the dangers. Acknowledge that some challenges may simply be fun, but that others could be really harmful. Ask how they would recognize if a challenge was potentially dangerous. Talk about how to think about potential consequences before participating.
  • Talk about strategies to resist peer pressure. Even if your teen knows something is a bad idea, they might be tempted to go along with the crowd anyway. Identify strategies for resisting peer pressure, even if their friends tease them or insist they take part.

How to Deal With a Teen Who Participates in Dangerous Stunts

The teen brain isn’t yet fully developed. Consequently, teens view risk differently than adults do. So while your teen may be a straight A student, they might make some pretty unwise decisions at times.

If your teen participates in ridiculous pranks or they get caught up in dangerous dares, don’t ignore the problem. Have a serious talk about the potential perils your teen may be placing themself in.

Discuss the reasons they take part as well. Do they need something to do—like a job—to keep them busy? Are they trying to impress their friends?

Consider whether your teen might need help sharpening some of their skills. Perhaps they need help knowing how to say no. Or maybe they need to find positive activities that boost their self-worth so they don't feel as though they need to impress other people.

Make your expectations clear. Say, “I expect that you won’t engage in risky behavior just because your friends are doing it.” Simply saying those kinds of words can make your teen think twice about taking part in risky behavior like the duct tape challenge.

If your teen seems to be a natural risk-taker, help them find healthy outlets. Encourage them to get involved in sports or challenge them to raise money for a charity—as long as they do it in a safe way.

If your teen can’t seem to resist a dare, or they love taking everything to the next level, restrict their privileges. After all, if they are going to drive a car, you need to know your teen can say no when a friend challenges them to drive 100 miles per hour.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sercombe H. Risk, adaptation and the functional teenage brain. Brain Cogn. 2014;89:61-69. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2014.01.001

  2. Peterson CH, Buser TJ, Westburg NG. Effects of Familial Attachment, Social Support, Involvement, and Self-Esteem on Youth Substance Use and Sexual Risk Taking. Fam J. 2010;18(4):369-376. doi:10.1177/1066480710380546

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.