Yet another social media trend is sending kids to the hospital. And now, the mother of a teen who was affected is speaking out.

By Zara Hanawalt
May 27, 2021
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An image of a hand on a hospital bed.
Credit: Getty Images.

As parents, we (rightfully) worry about all the issues our kids may face on social media. But it isn't just about the potential bullying or the mental health ramifications or the danger of kids sharing too much information (or inappropriate content) publicly. We also have to be mindful of all the dangerous trends that circulate these platforms—like the one that had kids running away from home for 48 hours, or the one that involved snorting condoms, or the infamous (and wildly dangerous) Tide pod challenge.

Most recently, a social media fad sent a teenage girl to the hospital, where she required emergency surgery—and this trend needs to be on parents' radars. Faye Elizabeth is warning other parents of this TikTok trend, which involves using magnetic balls on the skin in order to replicate the look of piercings.

Elizabeth's daughter, whose name she's chosen to withhold, was trying to create the look of a tongue piercing: Her attempt reportedly involved placing metal balls on either side of her tongue. Later, the daughter began vomiting and complaining of stomach pains.

"The pains got worse so I took her to Whiston Hospital. They thought it might have been her appendix at first," Elizabeth told the Liverpool Echo. "Then they ruled that out and thought it might have been gastroenteritis until she started vomiting black stuff. They did a scan and found 10 of the ball bearings."

According to the report, Elizabeth's 13-year-old daughter swallowed the magnetic balls, which eventually lodged themselves in her appendix and bowel. "They had to take part of her bowel away and re-stitch it. There was one stuck in her appendix so they had to remove that," Elizabeth told the Liverpool Echo.

Overall, doctors reportedly removed 15 magnetic balls from the teen's internal organs.

"Apparently she watched a TikTok video where there's a trend that all the kids are doing at the minute. I haven't actually seen it but she told me about it and a lot of other children her age have seen it," the mom explained. "They put one of the beads on top of their tongue and one underneath and it makes it look like their tongue is pierced."

Because the magnets kids use are so small, they're easy to swallow—especially if, like in the case of Elizabeth's daughter, they're applied orally. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that rare-earth magnets can cause serious injury or death if swallowed. When more than one is swallowed, "they can attract each other through walls of the intestines and cause severe injuries." Symptoms of magnet ingestion includes fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Obviously, this is an incredibly scary event for any parent. And who knows how tragic this situation could have been had the mom not taken quick action? What's terrifying, though, is that according to Elizabeth, the daughter initially seemed afraid to tell her mom what she had done—and that raises an important point about how we need to have these conversations with our kids where social media safety is concerned. They're never easy, but if we can take one thing away from all this, it's that social media can be a dangerous place, and we need to create open dialogue around what kids and teens are exposed to on these platforms.