Multiple Teens Need Surgery After Copying a Dangerous TikTok Trend—and Parents Are Issuing a Warning
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 has sent kids and teenagers to the hospital, where they required emergency surgery. It involves using magnetic balls on body parts to replicate the look of piercings. Now parents are stepping forward to share how this trend has harmed their children.
Take Faye Elizabeth, whose daughter tried to create the look of a tongue piercing by placing magnetic 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."
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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.
A similar tragedy happened to a 9-year-old boy named Jack, who swallowed six magnets while attempting to create a fake tongue piercing. After he experienced vomiting and extreme abdominal pain, his mom—Carolann McGeoch of Stirling, Scotland—took him to the hospital, where doctors found the magnets blocking his bowel.
"It was explained to me that the damage these magnets can cause could be so extreme that he might not pull through. Through floods of tears I then had to sign my permission to the operation and to acknowledging that 'anything could happen'," said McGeoch in a Facebook group called Borestone Parents.
Thankfully, Jack survived the surgery, but doctors needed to remove his appendix, small intestine, and part of his large intestine. Five days after the operation, Jack can only have liquids and walk with aid. "All for the sake of some silly magnets," says his mom.
Because the magnets kids use are so small, they're easy to swallow—especially if, like in the cases of Jack and 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 moms not taken quick action? What's terrifying, though, is that according to Elizabeth, her 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.