4 Sep 2014

Parents warned of online 'fire challenge'

7:13 pm on 4 September 2014

Parents are being warned of a dangerous new trend where teenagers are setting themselves on fire and posting the videos on YouTube and Facebook.

In the United States, the craze has resulted in two deaths and several injuries.

The videos show American teens dousing themselves with an accelerant, lighting themselves, then jumping into a pool or shower.

Read warning letter from the Fire Service

In a letter to New Zealand schools, the Fire Service said the stunt is extremely dangerous and can result in severe injuries and life-time scarring, as most people don't realise how tricky it can be to extinguish burning liquids.

The service said it is not aware of the stunts happening in New Zealand and has declined to comment further, saying it fears it may prompt copycats.

The principal at Auckland's Balmoral School, Malcom Milner, says he has forwarded the warning to parents as many are not aware of how quickly social media trends can catch on.

"We've seen the 'bucket challenge' and how that quickly went through social media. We've also had instances with our intermediate school with children using IT inappropriately, and maybe late at night on the wireless at home. We just felt it was really important that our parents are informed of what's happening in the digital age to children."

Henk Popping, the principal of Otumoetai Intermediate School in Tauranga, says openly talking about the matter is the only way to stop the trend spreading. He said there is always a risk of copycats - but if someone is prevented from hurting themselves by talking about it, then it will have been worth it.