Five dumb and deadly teen pranks

Laying facedown with your hands stiff at your sides in an unlikely place, then having a friend snap a photo to post online sounds harmless. But "planking" and other common teen pranks can be dangerous. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

From sipping codeine-laced “purple drinks” to car-surfing, “planking” and vodka “eye-balling”, dangerous teen “trends” can take deadly turns - yet often fly below parents’ radar. Fueled by celebrities, internet instructions and Facebook fame, here’s the latest on five that the parents of teens and preteens should know about:

#1. Purple Drink. This mix of soda, hard candies and codeine cough syrup can cause hallucinations, unresponsiveness, and lethargy. Popularized in hip-hop and rap music as “purple drank”, the drink is now blamed for the death of a 14-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota girl earlier this month, according to a report in the Star Tribune newspaper. The concoction, also known as “lean” and “dirty Sprite” was mixed up and given to her by adults at a birthday party.

#2: Planking. Laying facedown with your hands stiff at your sides in an unlikely place, then having a friend snap a photo to post online sounds harmless. And often, planking’s simply funny - as photos of teens planking on stools and even on a grand piano, posted on a Web site devoted to this internet craze show. No one’s sure where it began. Some say it was invented in Australia, others say the 1993 movie The Program - in which a quarterback lies down in the middle of a highway - has inspired copycats. But it’s dangerous. Planking’s killed one Australian man, who fell from a seventh-floor balcony, and left another in a coma according to a Fox News report. Newer versions like “Batmanning” - hanging upside-down by your feet - and a Russian version called “skywalking” (climbing to dangerous spots on tall buildings) - aren’t any safer.

#3. Vodka eyeballing. In this drinking game, you get a shot of vodka in the eye -- in search of a quick drunk as the alcohol gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Doctors in Memphis, Tenn., warn that they’re seeing this party game more often among teens, according to a WMC-TV report. The danger? "Vodka specifically is about 40 to 50 percent alcohol and that can physically melt the cornea," said one optometrist quoted in the story. "It could cause blindness." Red, swollen eyeballs can be a warning sign of vodka eyeballing.

#4: Distilling hand sanitizer. We won’t print the directions here, but that’s not stopping teens from finding out how and giving it a try. The result is a drink that’s 50 percent stronger than an 80-proof tequila or vodka. This spring, doctors at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles said they’re seeing more emergency-room cases involving extremely intoxicated teens who got their alcohol this way. Six were hospitalized, according to this NBC report. “A person who has never had alcohol before can get drunk instantaneously. It is very, very dangerous,” said Dr. Calvin Lowe, of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. One way to discourage it: Buy foam sanitizers and alcohol-free types.

#5. Car-surfing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 99 people died or sustained serious injuries as a result of car surfing between 1990 and 2008. Those statistics don’t include a 21-year-old St. Paul man who died in mid-August when he fell while riding on the outside of a moving vehicle, according to this report from WTAQ radio in Green Bay, WI.

Who car surfs? When CDC researchers looked into it, they found:

  • Males are more likely to car surf than females. However, 30 of the 99 injuries and deaths happened to girls.
  • The average age of persons injured as a result of car surfing is 17.6 years old, and a larger than average proportion of injuries occur between ages 15 to 19. But kids as young as 10 have been hurt.
  • It’s deadly at any speed. Injuries and deaths have happened at speeds from 5 to 80 miles per hour. The most dangerous thing that can happen while car surfing is falling from the vehicle, as this can lead to fatal head injury, even at slow speeds.