‘Shell On Challenge’ Is The Latest Fake Teen Panic

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Following the “Tide Pod challenge,” the “Blue Whale challenge,” and all of that scary stuff involving Momo, recent years have seen a lot of panics regarding teenage antics. In most cases, there’s little evidence that such challenges are actually taking place in numbers matching the hype, although that assessment must be made on a case by case basis.

According to The Daily Beast, the latest such challenge is the “Shell On Challenge.” This challenge involves teenagers supposedly daring one another to eat the packaging around certain food products, often consisting of cardboard or plastic, and sometimes the peel of a banana or the outside of a pineapple. In this case, the “challenge” supposedly involves posting the resulting video of the stunt to Snapchat.

The Daily Beast states that there’s good reason to believe that the trend isn’t actually real. The videos are allegedly posted to Snapchat, where videos disappear, and no notable examples of the “Shell On Challenge” have migrated to YouTube, Instagram, or other platforms as yet — as usually happens when such social media trends are actually legitimate.

This, however, hasn’t stopped various media outlets — mostly local news channels — from reporting on the trend, often with some degree of panic. Even The Today Show covered the supposed trend, stating that “doctors warn” about the danger of eating food packaging.

According to The Daily Beast, all of the news pieces about the trend, to date, use the same handful of video clips. Nearly all of these clips emphasize the eating of not-normally-eaten parts of food — such as an orange rind — rather than cardboard or other more dangerous items.

In the “Tide Pod challenge” news cycle of early 2018, there really were videos of teenagers eating the laundry pods, per Snopes. However, the scale of the phenomenon has been somewhat disputed. Tide, however, did speak up in asking customers not to eat their product.

Others, like the “Blue Whale Challenge” of 2016, were much less substantiated. There was also “jenkum,” “rainbow parties,” and other viral memes that had more in common with urban legends than any actual real or observable trends.

Instances of local news outlets promoting fear surrounding such supposed trends was memorably satirized by Saturday Night Live in 2010, per YouTube. The sketch starred Bill Hader as a local news reporter who warned viewers of “souping” — “teenagers are drinking expired soup cans to get high” — and “trampolining,” which entails teenage girls performing oral sex on boys while jumping on trampolines.