Viral ‘skull breaker challenge’ circulating on social media puts children in danger

Expert says social media challenge is dangerous for children

Kathleen DeJesus had no idea when she got hurt that she was an unknowing participant in the latest social media challenge.

DETROIT – Kathleen DeJesus had no idea when she got hurt that she was an unknowing participant in the latest social media challenge.

“I was thinking -- I feel like I was going to die,” DeJesus said.

DeJesus, 13, of Massachusetts, was rushed from her middle school to the hospital after an incident in her gym class.

“I was paralyzed,” she said. “I felt I had a concussion. I was numb. I couldn’t feel my legs, my foot, my hands, nothing."

The challenge she found herself a part of is called the “skull breaker challenge,” and it’s circulating on social media platforms such as Tik Tok. In the challenge, three people jump, except the two on the outside don’t actually jump, instead they try to kick the legs out from under the middle person.

“It’s very frightening,” said Dr. Lasonia Barlow, clinical psychologist at the Detroit Medical Center. “I’m surprised it’s not more injuries as a result of it.”

Barlow said parents need to talk to their children about what they see online.

“It is better to have those conversations, because if they haven’t seen it, chances are, they have friends that have told them about such things as the skull breaking challenge or any type of risky behavior,” Barlow said.

She said children should know risky behavior is something that can potentially cause them to be harmed or injured. She recommends letting children know the consequences of their actions if they attempt this challenge or other challenges.

Barlow said children and teenagers should get hard guidance and parents need to explain the behavior is not appropriate and set boundaries for them. She said that’s important because adolescents can be impulsive. They want to be included with their peers, and their brains are still developing.

"The brain development is a big problem because they can't contemplate whether something is dangerous or not. Or, rather something is risky or not. So, they don't know," Barlow said.

When it comes to the consequences of the skull breaker challenge, Dr. Frank McGeorge said the consequences can be dire.

"The injuries could be very minor or they could be major and the problem is kids see things online and they just the stunt but what they don't see is their friend going to the emergency department and spending three days in the ICU because they have a cracked skull," McGeorge said.

“I just feel like it needs to stop because it’s getting out of hand,” DeJesus said.

Barlow said social media can definitely be a catalyst for these challenges or risky behavior, which is why it’s so important to talk to kids about what’s appropriate and what is not appropriate.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.