There’s nothing new about kids creating wild games to satisfy their boredom during school hours. In years past, though, these crazes were generally nothing more than a bit of harmless fun. However, the latest challenge to catch on could have devastating consequences.
Known as the “Eraser Challenge,” the trend has been around for a few years. However, in the spring of 2017, it had a resurgence among young people. And from an outside perspective the craze doesn’t look like a game at all.
The challenge requires participants to recite the alphabet. This sounds innocent enough – but there’s a catch. As they recall their ABCs players must rub an eraser on their skin until it starts to bleed.
This often results in deep cuts and abrasions. And the aim of the game is to see how long the participant can endure the pain. As a result, the “winner” is essentially the player who can cope with the largest wound.
Often, after completing the challenge, young people compare their injuries online. As a result, social media is teeming with harrowing photos and videos of teens causing harm to themselves in the name of entertainment.
With the evidence of the craze online for all to see, it didn’t take long for schools to try and crack down on the barbaric challenge. Many of them warned parents to look out for tell-tale burn marks on their children’s bodies.
In March 2017 East Iredell Middle School in North Carolina appealed to parents to be more vigilant. “Do your children have any burn marks?” read a post on the school’s Facebook page. “[The Eraser Challenge is] causing serious burns and we’ve seen several cases of this at EIMS.”
Mill Creek Middle School in Kansas was another school that sent letters to parents. And Megan Marquis, whose children attend the school, couldn’t believe what she was reading. “I thought it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she told Fox 4 News. “I thought it was crazy.”
However, for many parents, such warnings came too late. In 2016 one troubled parent posted an image of a child’s burn. The youngster had participated in the Eraser Challenge and, as a result, he’d caused a nasty raw wound.
“This made me very sad,” the disappointed mum wrote online. “But [I am] satisfied as the boy told me how badly his arm hurt many days later and how he would never try anything like that again.”
And it seemed the boy in question wasn’t the only kid to think twice about the challenge after sustaining injuries. Many of the images on social media featured bandages or Band Aids. And many of users began adding “#regret” to their captions.
However, many children will have to live with the consequences of the Eraser Challenge for the rest of their lives. The craze has left many of them with permanent scars. And that’s not the only risk the game poses.
Since erasers are not sterile, rubbing them against broken skin can be medically dangerous. In rare cases, they could even cause staph or strep skin infections which can be deadly in some extreme instances.
“Kids don’t know this, but your skin isn’t sterile,” pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson explained to Today in March 2017. “It’s crawling and teeming with bacteria. When you open up your skin, that bacteria can crawl in and cause an infection.”
“Most kids are going to play this stupid game and have redness in their skin, create a scab and they might be left with a scar,” she added. “Most kids will do fine because our immune systems are just profound.”
However, other youngsters might not be so lucky. There is already one known case of the Eraser Challenge causing an extreme strep infection. In 2015 it was reported that a 13-year-old was fighting for his life after the Eraser Challenge caused toxic shock.
According to Swanson, part of the problem is young people’s desire to fit in. “These are kids acting like kids,” she said. “It seems like there’s this bravado in it. There’s this easy accessibility when you’re thinking about the social dynamics of children trying to belong, trying to get attention and show strength.”
Dr. Swanson says that if parents are worried about their children participating in the game, they should speak to them. First, they need to warn them of the dangers the game. But parents should also be prepared to deal with the consequences.
If children do participate in the craze, someone should clean any resulting wounds with soap and lukewarm water. After that, use of an antibiotic cream should prevent infection. But if parents are concerned, they should consult a doctor.
Thankfully, trends come and go. So hopefully it won’t be long until the Eraser Challenge is assigned to the history books. After all school games should live on in our memories forever, but not on our skin.