COMMENTARY | Kids are playing a dangerous dare game called the "cinnamon challenge," says Time's Healthland. Like all dare games, it involves kids doing something potentially lethal that we adults call dumb and pointless. Fear-factor games didn't originate with this generation. In times past, kids played choking games, drowning games, chicken car races, Mumblety Peg and host of other freakishly dangerous challenges.
I don't say the cinnamon challenge should be blown off as child's play. Obviously, trying to swallow a mouthful of powder isn't safe. That's the point. I just don't think we should be surprised that kids are doing it. Kids think they're invincible. They know people die and get hurt, but they don't think it will happen to them. Their limit switches are also undeveloped. This combination makes them seek out ever-greater risks. Even some adults are addicted to danger. That's why the "Jackass" movies are so popular. I think parental over-protectiveness may push kids to the danger zone, too.
Like Don Quixote, kids yearn for adventure. In adolescence, especially, life can seem meaningless and boring. My oldest son once declared that he wished a wizard would send him to Mordor in search of a ring. The Native Americans understood this and sent their coming-of-age youth to find their Manitou (says Access Genealogy). It was a time of deprivation and danger for the boy, but it served a purpose. Risk isn't always a bad thing if teaches kids to navigate life.
I think our concern glamorizes danger. Our youngest son has courted danger since babyhood. He purposely got into cupboards labeled with "Mr. Yuk" stickers. Locks and electrical outlet covers were open challenges. The words "abandoned building" meant "snoop around here." Even as an adult, rules posted on warning signs are temptations for him.
Yes, we need to talk to kids about how dangerous games like the cinnamon challenge are. Forewarned is still forearmed. We need to appeal to their emerging common sense, though and not imbue the game with greater appeal by our reactionary behavior. The things that horrify us are the very things kids gravitate toward.