Doctors are warning parents that this new social media trend could be very dangerous. Here's what you need to know.

By Rebecca Macatee
Hanna_photo/Shutterstock

April 23, 2019

Last year, the infamous "Tide Pod challenge" had teens risking their lives for a moment of Internet glory. Now, a new troubling social media trend is making the rounds online: It's called the "shell on challenge," and it involves kids eating various foods with the shells on.

A food-centric challenge might not sound as dangerous as one where teens are literally eating laundry detergent, but doctors warn there are serious risks involved. That's because the "shell on challenge" isn't just about kids daring each other to eat banana peels, watermelon rinds, and egg shells; in some cases, the teens are consuming plastic and cardboard packaging.

Hansa Bhargava, M.D., told Today these "wrappings may contain substances that could be carcinogenic." Dr. Bhargava, a practicing pediatrician and senior medical director for WebMD, noted that while a small piece of plastic is likely to pass through the digestive system within a day, larger pieces of inedible materials are major choking hazards.

Ingesting unwashed peels and shells can be dangerous, too, because there's a chance teens will be taking in bacterial organisms. "For example, salmonella contamination of eggs could pose a hazard," Dr. Bhargava told the publication. "Also, there may be pesticide residue that could be ingested, but usually small amounts shouldn't impact a person."

But even if the so-called "shell on challenge" doesn't make your kid sick, it's still not the kind of thing you want to encourage. And unfortunately, when this troubling trend fades away, there will probably be another new viral challenge putting teens at risk.

So what's a parent to do? Talk to your little ones. "The best way to keep kids from participating in this challenge—as well as the next one we will surely see—is to dialogue with your kids about making smart, healthy choices in all arenas, whether they're digital or physical or social," Linsly Donnelly, general manager of consumer and parent operations at Securly, an online solution for managing children's devices and online activity, tells Parents.com.

And there's good news, too—for all of humanity, really. We might be hearing a lot about the "shell on challenge" in the news, but evidence suggests it's not all that popular amongst teenagers. Securly offers 24-hour monitoring of kids online activity, and according to Donnelly, they've "only seen a handful of these searches in literally tens of millions we monitor—so it seems although the virality factor may be high—our kids are letting us know—it's not really worth their time."

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