Monday, March 31, 2014

A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste Dept.: Fun with the "eraser challenge"


For once, I was able to embed the clip, but not without its starting automatically, and goodness knows we don't want that. So instead, you can view it here.

by Ken

Even when I was able to embed the clip I had mixed success with actually getting it to play. At first, for example, I was able to get audio, but for video just a couple of still pictures. At other times I wasn't able to get that much. If you can't get it to play, or don't want to bother trying, here's a text version of this Fox CT story:
Students Warned Of Danger Of 'Eraser Challenge'

by Mike Krafcik
WTIC | Hartford, CT

BETHEL -- Bethel Middle School is warning parents about a dangerous new game. It's called "The Eraser Challenge" and videos popping up on YouTube show the game being played by mostly teenagers.

To play the game, teens will use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and elbow while reciting the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter.

Once they reach the letter Z, the opponents will compare their wounds.

Bethel Middle School Principal Derek Muharem says a random collection of a dozen students in different games that are part of the challenge. Muharem said he first found out about the game after several students told the school's nurse they had marks on their arms after playing the game.

On Thursday, Muharem sent a letter to parents of every student at the school asking parents to talk to their kids about the challenge and explain the dangers. (Click here to read the  letter.)

Muharem is also concerned about injuries potentially caused by the game.

"What I found out was kids were sharing erasers, so as they broke the skin they were passing the eraser off to somebody else, body fluids being shared, and that's a concern of mine," said Muharem.

Bethel Middle sixth grader Alexandra Luhrs says she has seen many of her classmates play the game, mostly in the hallways. Luhrs says playing the game never appealed to her.

"They were like, oh it stings so bad, but they just kept going," said Luhrs.

Educators worry peer pressure is driving the trend.

Many parents we spoke to weren't aware of the game before they were notified and were puzzled by it.

"I don't understand why kids are mutilating themselves or doing things to hurt themselves," said John Luhrs, parent of a Bethel Middle School student.

"I just thought it was strange. Very strange things these children are doing," said Lara Fusara, a parent of a Bethel Middle School student.

The principal says no students will be reprimanded for their actions in the challenge. The goal is to make sure teenagers don't hurt themselves.
Now the currency this story is experiencing seems warranted. Apparently the videos are going viral, and there's no question that the "eraser challenge," even allowing for its potential boost to vocabulary building, is in a bunch of ways a really, really terrible idea, and one that communities have a powerful interest in warning their children against.


But what elevates the story in my mind to, well, something else, is the response I saw to AOL's posting of the video. Most of the comments seemed to be variations of this sort of thing: What are you, nuts? This isn't new. We were going it 30 years ago when I was a kid. I still got a scar from it. Like these:

[Click to enlarge]

Or these:

[Click to enlarge]

The comments were so consistent in content ("whaddaya mean, new?") and tone (how dare you?), suggesting that the only problem perceived here is that this isn't "news," that I wished AOL had attempted a follow-up. The commenters might have been asked questions like these:
(1) Since the days when you had all that fun with the eraser challenge, do you feel you have been helped by your interventions from the mental-health system?

(2) Would you say you vote:
-- frequently
-- occasionally, or
-- rarely or never?


(1) This is a trick question. Anyone who answers "I have not had any interventions from the mental-health system" or equivalent should be provided with appropriate mental-health referrals.

(2) If many people answer "frequently" or "occasionally," be afraid.



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