If Jamoneisha Merrit (11) knew what tragedy will befall her on the Sunday she was invited to a sleepover party at a New York apartment, she would have snuggled close to her mum and slept peacefully in her own bed. Apparently, her host had other plans for her, and they definitely were not good plans judging by the turn of events. Unknown to Jamoneisha, her 12 years old friend had heard of the #hotwaterchallenge and decided that the sleepover would be a perfect opportunity to participate in the challenge.
As I write this, the victim is in a hospital bed with burns on her face, chest, back and shoulders. Her mother, Ebony Merrit said that her daughter had been bullied by her supposed friend but they had continued to remain friends on Snapchat so, her daughter had no cause to believe that her host was not her friend. Unfortunately, she was in for a rude and painful shock!
There are a number of issues at play here. First is the issue of bullying, then the issue of fake friends, sleepovers and then the issue of trending dangerous challenges on social media.
Parents, we really can’t be caught napping. As much as technology and the digital space offers great opportunities and benefits, they also present real dangers. As much as we can let’s be informed about who our children’s friends are especially those they are really close to; what’s trending; how vulnerable our children may be in certain areas etc.
Jamoneisha is a survivor, but unfortunately, some others were not so lucky. This “hot water challenge” recently claimed the life of a young girl who was dared by her cousins to drink hot water using a straw. There have also been reports of others who were seriously injured by this bizarre act. Some of us may recall that earlier this year, there was another challenge the “Blue Whale Challenge” that was trending. The 50-day challenge encouraged preteens and teens to complete various tasks which mostly included physically harm themselves and eventually asking them to take their lives. At least two teens were believed to have committed suicide as a direct result of the dare.
Unfortunately, the originators of these bizarre challenges continue to remain anonymous and don’t get to bear the brunt of the havoc they cause.
Our hearts go out to Ebony Merrit and we pray for Jamoneisha’s recovery. We also use this unfortunate incident to remind us to continue to empower our own children to be digitally intelligent, responsible citizens who are able to make smart informed choices and stay safe – online and offline.
Our organization Rave Et Al is committed to using this blog, #DQEverychild and other programs we run to continue to create awareness and advocate for being humane in a digital world (#HumaneInaDigitalWorld). Visit www.rave-etal.com, subscribe to our blog and stay connected on social media and we promise to keep you informed.
Adenike Bello is the Program Assistant at Rave Et Al, a social enterprise that partners with parents, schools, government and other stakeholders, to equip the younger generation for the future, using education and other vibrant tools to reinforce values, attitudes and life skills that are imperative for successfully & safely navigating the various phases of life online, offline and impacting the society positively.
A curious and ambitious tech enthusiast, Adenike is passionate about humanity and adding value to the world. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, interacting with intellectuals, cooking and photography.