Have you heard of the California Knockout? I hadn't when I was asked by our local Fox TV station to talk about it, so I did what we all do these days when we want to find out about something: I Googled it. I found out that it's a variation on the Choking Game: you hyperventilate, then someone pushes on your chest which stops blood flow to the brain. You get a quick high, and then you pass out. Yet another one of the outrageously stupid and dangerous things that teenagers do--and apparently a bunch of middle schoolers in Northbridge have been doing it, prompting the principal to send out an email warning parents.
Now, it's sadly normal for teenagers to do outrageously stupid and dangerous things. It's consistent with where they are in brain development, at that crossroads between being children--fast learners and fearless--and being adults, with a bit more common sense. The last part of their brains to mature is the frontal lobe, where common sense and reason live. Another thing we know about teens is that not only are they risk takers, but they are deeply influenced by their peers.If their friends are doing something, they are more likely to do it--especially if they think it's going to make them seem cool, or brave.
What YouTube does is multiply that peer effect. The videos (which were really disturbing but at the same time fascinating) made doing this outrageously stupid thing look really cool. The kids doing it, and the ones urging them on, seemed really brave and reckless in that way we all want to be when we are teens. The message of the videos was that you were a wimp (or whatever the proper word is these days) if you weren't willing to try doing this (outrageously stupid thing).
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