A TikTok craze where young people are forcing themselves to pass out is being described as potentially deadly and a wake-up call for parents to know what their children are doing on social media.
A Rotorua doctor has warned how brain cells can easily be damaged from such pranks and a psychologist has explained why children often don't make reasonable decisions and can get sucked into taking part.
Parents are being advised to get a TikTok account and become familiar with the trends to help their children understand how to make good decisions.
The pass-out challenge involves people filming themselves passing out. Some of the comments on TikTok from people who have done it include: "I did that and I didn't remember anything, I hit my head on a plastic chair", "Holy it worked", "My head is hurting bad", "Everyone is doing this and I kinda wanna try I will do it next time we have a sleepover" and "Bro I passed out 3 times cuz of this".
The Rotorua Daily Post has elected not to describe how people taking the part in the trend were passing out.
While some of the stunts filmed and posted to TikTok appear to be fake, with students just acting as if they'd passed out, several of the clips appeared to be real.
Rotorua Girls' High School principal Sarah Davies said she was aware there had been some girls in the school who had tried the challenge.
"We have asked our wellness centre staff to follow up individually with any girls we are aware may have tried this to educate them of the inherent dangers of this. We will continue to do this if we are aware of any students engaging in this sort of activity."
The Rotorua Daily Post approached other schools in the region. One wasn't able to comment but said it had dealt with students attempting to pass out at school. Some schools had not heard of the trend and others said they had heard of it but it hadn't become an issue at school.
Dr Cate Mills from Rotorua's Three Lakes Clinic said the risks ranged from brain cell damage to death.
She said at a minimum, whenever someone passed out, brain cells were damaged.
"But also when they fall, they occlude their airways, the tongue could roll into the back of the throat and block the airways and then they could have brain damage from not enough oxygen."
They could also suffer possible head injuries from falling from a standing position, Mills said.
Netsafe online safety operations manager Sean Lyons said it had "definitely" come to their attention and Netsafe had had parents approach it for advice.
He said the desire to be seen to be involved in the "next big thing" was understandable but people's interpretation of what was a good idea sometimes went "out the window".
Those involved in doing these pranks or even starting them were often unaware of the serious consequences, Lyons said.
"None of this is done with malicious intent but that's not to say people don't get harmed."
He said everyone around young people had a role to play to help guide good decision-making. Knowing what they were up to, without spying, was key.
"If they're on TikTok but you know nothing about it, go and find out. Get yourself an account, move around on it and see how it is done."
He said Netsafe research told it young people would seek their parents' help if it was a major issue but parents were not normally their first port of call for minor issues.
He said the worst thing was if a child went to their parent and said, "I have a problem on TikTok", and the parent responded by asking what it was.
"At that point, as a parent, you're out."
Other advice included having discussions with young people about how they'd handle situations of peer pressure on social media if they weren't sure something was a good idea.
He said online activity was a big part of young people's lives, particularly during the pandemic when some were isolated. He said it was an important way for young people to stay connected.
"Prohibition doesn't work and is the worst of all the tactics. For us, it is about parents finding out what young people are doing."
Debbie Heron from Lakes Psychology said that in young people the brain's frontal lobe took longer to mature and it was that part that controlled the ability to make good choices.
She said it was that part of the brain that triggered thoughts such as "actually that's too risky, I'm not going to do that".
"That's why some adolescents get into a lot of trouble sometimes. The reasoning brain takes a long, long time to mature even into your 20s. If you look at a toddler's ability to make good decisions compared with a 16-year-old and then it improves again when they're 26."
She said having adults around young people ensuring they were making good choices was critical.
"Especially when they are trying things and doing things because their peers are saying it is cool."
Retired Bay of Plenty Coroner Wallace Bain said he hadn't come across any deaths in the past relating to this type of trend but he said copycat behaviour on social media was a concern.
A Tiktok spokesperson said it was a "disturbing challenge" which people seemed to learn about from sources other than TikTok.
They said it long predated its platform and had never been a TikTok trend.
"We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found."