Taking part in certain activities can quickly become a viral trend thanks to social media platforms like TikTok. What can start out as a few people doing something can soon be recreated by thousands of people around the world, if not millions. While some trends are harmless, such as the magic mirror trend, or are even created to raise money for charity, like the ice bucket challenge which dominated the summer of 2014 - some trends, however, can be harmful to mental health and wellbeing. Others, such as the benadryl challenge and the blackout challenge have also been linked to the death of teenagers in the UK and the US.
Sadly, another TikTok challenge has now been blamed for a devastating accident which has left a teenage boy, Mason Dark, with burns to three quarters of his body. Videos showing people taking part in the aerosol challenge have racked up almost 120 million views on the platform - but everyone is being warned by firefighters not to engage with it.
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue told NationalWorld: “This is a very worrying trend. It goes without saying that our advice is never to spray from an aerosol can onto a naked flame. The consequences can be severe and put lives unnecessarily at risk. We advise that all aerosols should be stored and disposed of carefully and kept away from sources of ignition at all times.”
So, just what is the aerosol TikTok challenge that all parents and carers need to be aware of, and what happened to Mason Dark? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the aerosol challenge?
The aerosol challenge involves taking highly flammable aerosol spray paint and spraying it into a lighter. The aim is to create various colourful fire effects, but it is extremely dangerous. The potentially life-changing effects of taking part in the challenge have been brought into focus by the case of Mason Dark, an American teenager who has been left with significant injuries by doing it, but is lucky to be alive.
What happened to Mason Dark?
Mason Dark, a 16-year-old boy from North Carolina, United States, has been left with burns to over 75% of his body after taking part in the aerosol challenge. Speaking to journalists from local television station WRAL, Dark’s mother Holi said that he had used a lighter and spray paint to carry out the trending challenge in his room when a big bang was heard. He was then set alight. She told them: “Mason came running out and [he] started taking off his shirt. He’s got third-degree burns, it’s like a T in his back and it was from him taking off his shirt, and then it got stuck or something.”
She also said that he’d jumped in a river to try to soothe his burns, but had been left “unrecognisable” by his injuries. He has been receiving treatment in a specialised US burns since the incident on Sunday 23 April. Mason received surgery to get skin grafts on Wednesday 26 April, to start the long healing process. Holi told WRAL reporters that seeing her son’s skin slowly heel was like seeding a lawn, and that he will need many more surgeries.
Mason, who has burns on 76% of his body, is expected to remain in the UNC Burn Centre for at least six months. The teen’s grandmother, Heidi Simpson, has created an online Go Fund Me page to help raise funds to help pay for medical bills and other needs for the family. She started the page on Tuesday 25 April with the aim of raising $50,000 (around £40,000). At the time of writing, on Wednesday 3 May, the fundraising total had almost been reached. Posting on the page, Simpson said Mason is in “an incredible amount of pain and is sedated”. She also confirmed that the keen footballer has a combination of first, second and third degree burns and is currently also battling a pneumonia-related infection.
What has TikTok said about the aerosol challenge?
TikTok has not commented specifically on the aerosol challenge, but they have issued general guidance regarding following trends on their website, as part of their community guidelines.
The message reads: “Some online challenges can be dangerous, disturbing, or even fabricated. Learn how to recognize harmful challenges so you can protect your health and well-being”. People are also advised to think about whether or not the people in the videos have special skills, if something could have gone wrong, and if they are confident that they will be safe if they do it themselves. Another message from TikTok reads “if a challenge is risky or harmful, or you are not sure if it is, don’t do it.”