Deadly drinking game NekNominate goes viral on Facebook, Twitter

If you look up “NekNominate” on YouTube, here’s a preview of what you’ll find: A 20-something pouring beer down a toilet who is then whisked up by friends to drink it upside down. In another video, a young man mixes up a disturbing cocktail of alcohol, milk, live bugs, and a dead mouse in a food processor before drinking it.

What is happening? Kids are being nominated by their peers to take video of themselves downing — or "necking" — strong drinks under bizarre or dangerous circumstances before challenging others to film an even more shocking video to post online within 24 hours. Refusing a nomination could lead to being teased over social media.

The game is believed to have started in Australia and has spread rapidly across the world due to Twitter and Facebook. While some of the videos can be viewed as harmless fun, the drinking game has been linked to at least five deaths of men under the age of 30, CNN reported.

Jonny Byrne from Carlow, Ireland died last month after he jumped into a river after downing a pint. His brother Patrick Byrne posted a Facebook status on Feb. 1 telling his friends NekNomination “has to stop right now.”

“My young 19 year old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination,” Byrne wrote. “He thought he had to try and beat the competition after he necked his pint he jumped into the river. After 5 hours of searching he is still not found.”

Byrne’s body was recovered from the River Barrow in Carlow, Ireland, on Feb. 2, reported the Irish Mirror.

With the popularity of Neknominate continuing to grow, we asked Tina George, MSW, Student Assistance Program (SAP) Training Coordinator at Caron Treatment Centers, to give parents advice about how to talk to their children about potentially deadly drinking games.

Why should parents talk to their kids about drinking games such as NekNomination?

The reason why parents should talk to their kids about this is simple: it could be a matter of life or death should their child accept the dare. Although Neknomination is fairly new in the United States, the concept of risk-taking involving alcohol is not.

Research suggests that parents, not their friends, are the number one influence on a child’s drinking behavior. When we do not talk about the dangers of alcohol, or we are not clear about our expectations, it sends a message that the use of alcohol is debatable or negotiable.  Research shows that adolescents take risks because of their brain chemistry. It is a parent’s job to make sure our kids have the information they need to make healthy decisions when influenced by peers and social media. 

What’s the best way for parents to approach the issue?

The best way for parents to approach the issue is early and often.  As parents, we find ourselves in the position of having to discuss more mature topics at earlier ages with our children. Their exposure to the Internet and social media has contributed to this reality.  We need to stay on top of current trends regarding drugs, alcohol and social media influences, despite our desire to be ignorant; this ignorance is common, simply because we find the information overwhelming and beyond our comprehension. 

I believe a formal conversation needs to occur where the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol need to be discussed along with clear rules and expectations. I’ve asked many parents if they talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol – they emphatically report that they do. When I ask their children about this conversation, typically they do not recall ever discussing it. Obviously, there is a disconnect and a formal conversation regarding the subject is warranted. I’m a big fan of the “teachable moment.” Unfortunately the nightly news, the local newspaper, and celebrity gossip columns are filled with opportunities to keep the conversation going.  A quick role-play to practice refusal skills before an evening with their friends is a great way to send them off into the unknown.

What can parents tell their children about the dangerous trends that can spread on social media?

They can tell them the facts. This is not harmless fun – people have died as a result and others have experienced serious consequences.  I often ask children where they see themselves in ten years. Then I ask if this risk or this dangerous behavior is getting them closer to their goals or potentially further from their dreams. Getting kids to think beyond what seems fun at the moment and consider the potential consequences is not something that always comes naturally. Most importantly, parents can let their kids know how much we love them and do not want to see them get hurt in any way. That is something we can never tell them enough.

What should parents do if they suspect their child is taking parts in trends like NekNomination or excessively drinks?

If speaking to your child yourself doesn’t work, any parent who suspects their child is partaking in risky behavior around the use of alcohol or other substances should have their child evaluated by a professional to see if additional help is warranted. Most schools offer Student Assistance Programming, which can provide a parent with options to secure the help their child may need. Also, treatment facilities like Caron Treatment Centers, have websites full of information that can provide parents with resources that benefit the family before the need for a higher level of treatment is needed.    

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