Dangerous online stunts sending more kids to emergency rooms


by KING 5 News


Posted on September 16, 2010 at 10:36 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Doctors across the nation are beginning to sound an alarm about a growing number of children ending up in emergency rooms due to a troubling behavior - they're copycatting dangerous stunts they see online.

What happened to a 10-year-old boy last year is an example of the alarming trend.

Ryan Gooding had a bottle explode in his face. It shattered his nose, burned his skin and nearly blinded him.

"When we put the ingredients in the bottle, the bottle got pressurized and then eventually blew up," says Ryan.

His mother says he got the idea from watching YouTube.

"I was furious. I was absolutely furious that he was getting this stuff from YouTube and then imitating it," says Sonya Gooding.

Doctor Hani Mansour, a burn center director, says Ryan's story is being seen more and more.

"All these extreme things (stunts) that they are doing are all like a new culture cause they can publish it, because they can show it to a lot of people," says Mansour.

Family therapist Clair Mellenthin, LCSW  says kids are being drawn to these risky behaviors mostly because of peer pressure and because they're young.

"Their brains are not fully developed at this point to fully grasp the cause and effect of their actions," says Mellenthin. "Kids also think that they're invincible and nothing that they are going to do is really going to be that bad or cause harm."

Mellinthin says with the Internet, the whole world has become a stage for dangerous actions.

"So instead of being limited to their tiny little neighborhood or geographic area, and the kind of the stunts that are being played in the neighborhood, now they have exposure to what kids are doing and adults are doing worldwide," Mellinthin says.

So what's a parent to do? Experts say try placing filters on your computer, monitor your child's Internet history, and watch for any injuries that seem out of the ordinary. Most of all, talk to them over and over about the dangers.

"Not to scare them, but to let them know that there can be significant consequences to the choices that they're making," says Mellinthin.

As for Ryan, plastic surgery has fixed his nose and his mother has fixed their computer with parental controls. Ryan isn't complaining.

"If anyone were going to try it, I would suggest not 'cause obviously you've seen what happened to me," he says.

We checked with several local hospitals and, while they told us they were aware of the national statistics, they have not seen an increase in the greater Seattle area.