You Danger

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You Danger
From flaming
basketballs to crazy
trampoline tricks,
kids are attempting
dangerous stunts to
get famous online.
Is YouTube to blame?
The flaming
stunt ended
in tragedy.
n 2009, a 15-year-old
he imagined. As he took the shot,
boy decided to become
his clothing burst into flames. He
famous. His plan was
was rushed to the hospital with
to soak a basketball in
second- and third-degree burns
gasoline, set it on fire, and
on his chest and legs. He will have
sink a perfect three-pointer. He
would film the entire stunt, post
it on YouTube, and, he hoped,
become an Internet celebrity.
But things didn’t go the way
10 Scholastic Scope • SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
scars for the rest of his life.
Deadly Risks
YouTube hosts millions of clips
of people, many of them kids
and young adults, attempting
wild, dangerous, and downright
stupid stunts. The videos are
often inspired by shows like Fear
but according to family therapist
Factor, Stunt Junkies, and Wipeout,
Clair Mellenthin, laughter is a
of your brain that seeks pleasure
and they feature pretty much
defense mechanism—a way of
and reward is well-developed. The
any hazardous activity you can
coping with disturbing situations.
area of your brain that controls
imagine: playing with fire, “surfing”
“Even little babies laugh when they
judgment, the prefrontal cortex,
on top of moving cars, soaring off
see people fall down,” she says.
is not. This, combined with the
flimsy homemade ramps on bikes
Some of the earliest Greek
hormones surging through your
During adolescence, the area
and skateboards, shooting people
comedies featured characters being
body and your natural desire
point-blank with paintball guns.
chased by wild animals, falling off
for new experiences, can lead to
stage, or smacking into walls. Now,
serious risk-taking. In other words,
these videos, YouTube encourages
in the age of the Internet, anyone
the voice in your head that tells
young viewers to take deadly risks.
with a camera and a YouTube
you to do something exciting is
Research by the Centers for Disease
account can create this
a lot louder than the one
Control and Prevention shows
kind of “entertainment.”
that tells you why you
that more than 180,000 Americans
And YouTube provides
die from accidental injuries each
access to an audience
This doesn’t mean
year. That’s one person every three
that numbers in the
risk-taking kids
minutes. More than 14,000 of those
millions daily.
Some experts say that by hosting
killed are kids under the age of 19.
Is YouTube to blame?
Laughing at Violence
aren’t thinking.
Many viewers—
Often, they see
clearly how
dangerous a
Daredevils are nothing new. In
the 1800s, “human cannonballs”
were popular circus attractions.
In the 1970s and ’80s, legendary
daredevil Evel Knievel earned fame
The voice in your head that tells you
to do something exciting is a lot louder than
the one that tells you why you shouldn’t.
Fotolia (video screen); (Basketballs,
Feet, kids); SARAH WHITE (Composite VIDEO IMAGE)
for his crazy motorcycle stunts.
(He broke 433 bones over his
inspired by what they see and eager
certain activity is. They just do it
lifetime.) Today, Johnny Knoxville
to try it themselves. “YouTube
anyway. “A lot of risk-taking is not
has made a name for himself
has taken the one-upmanship of
impulsive,” says Valerie Reyna, a
showcasing ridiculous stunts on
playing in the neighborhood to a
psychology professor at Cornell
MTV and in movies.
global level,” says Mellenthin. “The
University in New York. Teens are
peer pressure is greatly increased,
simply more likely than adults to
found it entertaining to watch
because now we can see what
decide that a high-risk activity is
others try risky things—and also,
others are doing around the world.”
worth it for the thrill.
The fact is, people have always
sometimes, to watch them fail.
Audiences love a good wipeout
or blowup, as long as it’s not too
It’s true that the odds of getting
Brain Blame
killed leaping from your bedroom
There is another reason, beyond
window into your pool may be
serious. In fact, viewers often shriek
peer pressure, that many young
small, but there’s a problem with
with laughter at stunts gone wrong.
people are willing to risk their lives
this logic that most kids don’t quite
for the sake of a 30-second video:
get. No matter how small
Their brains are telling them to.
the risk, the worst possible
Laughter may seem like an odd
reaction to seeing people get hurt, • SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
thing can happen to you. As Reyna
says, “it only takes once” to die.
Not Worth It
Reyna believes that kids can
behave sensibly, even while their
brains are still developing. Most
Defenders of YouTube’s right
dangerous, illegal activities that
to display stunt videos argue that
have an inherent risk of serious
it isn’t YouTube’s responsibility to
physical harm or death.” Indeed,
censor its content. Parents, they say,
YouTube staffers comb the site 24
should be the ones to ensure that
hours a day, looking for videos that
kids are behaving safely.
violate their policies.
It’s not as if YouTube doesn’t
But is this enough?
kids know that no matter how
care, though. According to its
exciting or hilarious something in
Community Guidelines, YouTube
YouTube should have stricter rules,
a video might be, they shouldn’t
“draw[s] the line at content
here’s a piece of advice: Never light
attempt it if it’s clearly dangerous.
that’s intended to . . . encourage
a basketball on fire.
Whether or not you believe
What Do You Think?
Should YouTube ban stunt videos? Use evidence from the
article to support each side of this debate. Write the
information on the lines below.
C’Mon, Youtube. This is serious!
1 Kids will inevitably try the
Stupidity isn’t YOUTUBE’s FAULT.
stunts they see on YouTube.
3 (Pencil)
Examine points on both sides—AS WELL AS your own
beliefs and experiences. Decide what you think. State your answer
in one sentence below. This can become the thesis statement for an argument
essay on this topic.
take this
Activity further!
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12 Scholastic Scope • SEPTEMBER 24, 2012