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Springfield Middle School Counselor Weighs in on 'Tide Pods Challenge'

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- If you haven't heard, kids are putting poisonous laundry gel pods in their mouths, biting into them and posting videos in a dangerous new online trend called the "Tide Pod challenge."

While YouTube recently announced it was removing the videos, many wonder why people are putting laundry detergent in their mouths.

Brian Vega, a counselor at Hickory Hills Middle School, has a few ideas.

With the internet and social media, kids are connected to the world, he said. Someone on the other side of the planet can get a crazy idea and post a video online.

"They see it on YouTube and think it's funny," Vega said.

"And especially at this age (middle school), their prefrontal cortex of their brain is just not developed enough," he continued. "And that is where cause and effect, long-term consequences come into play."

Though he has heard kids talking about the "Tide Pod challenge," Vega said he has not heard of any Springfield students actually putting the detergent pods in their mouths. 

But Springfield middle schoolers are doing some pretty silly things right now, he said. They are crushing up Smarties candies and snorting the powder. They are drinking hand sanitizer. 

And you know those little silica gel packets that come in a new pair of shoes and say "don't eat"?

Yep, you guessed it.

Vega urges parents to spot-check every social media platform their child uses.

"Kids document and share everything they are doing. Spot-check to see if their child is doing it or if their child's friends are," he said. 

Then, Vega said to start a dialogue.

"It's the perfect springboard for conversations, to ask questions and listen to their child. Ask, 'What do you think about this? Do you think that it's safe?' And just listen."

"If (their response) is accurate, validate it for them. Say, 'Wow, that is really smart. You are right.' If it's not accurate, they need accurate information about the health risks or whatever they need to know."

If the parent has those conversations with their child and still feels he is going to continue the risky behaviors, Vega suggested seeking professional help. Perhaps just a few visits with a counselor will help them figure out "where the disconnect is between knowing something is bad and they are still doing it."

"In middle school, they are extremely impressionable," he said. "But the development of that part of the brain really doesn't happen till their 20s. They just don't think about the consequences."

About the 'Tide Pod challenge'
In 2017, poison control centers received reports of more than 10,500 exposures to highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Procter & Gamble, which owns Tide, told Fast Company it was working with social media networks "to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies."

In 2015, The Onion wrote about Tide pods from the perspective of a child who wanted to eat them following reports that the pods were intriguing to toddlers.

College Humor's "Don't Eat the Laundry Pods" video, which showed a college student attempting to eat Tide Pods, teed off the online hubbub in 2017. Dares to eat laundry pods followed on Reddit and Twitter.

More recently, YouTube has become the online venue of choice for teens putting Tide Pods in their mouth, even cooking with them. The laundry pods pose serious health risks for children. 

Dr. Alfred Aleguas Jr., managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, told USA TODAY that the College Humor video could result in a "life-threatening" situation. 

Swallowing even a small amount of the highly concentrated detergent found in pods can cause diarrhea and vomiting. In some cases, some of the detergent could even find its way into the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.

If you or someone you know has eaten a laundry detergent pod, call the national poison help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

"Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes," Tide said in a statement. "They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke."

USA Today contributed to this report. 

(Story shared by Springfield News-Leader. Read the original article here.) 


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