A mom is on a mission to spread the word about the viral “fire challenge” that left her 12-year-old daughter, Timiyah Landers, severely burned.
According to The Washington Post, Brandi Owens left her daughter and her two friends to take a quick nap when all of a sudden there was a loud pop. Next, she got up to see her daughter running down the hallway, completely engulfed in flames.
“[She] looked like a fireball,” the mom told The Post.
The mom reacted instinctually and began tearing her daughter’s burning clothes from her body, sustaining burns herself.
“I was reaching through the fire,” Owens said, adding that she didn’t even realize she had burned her hands. “It was like a reflex. … I didn’t even feel the fire, I was just saving my daughter.”
Owens’ fiance was able to put out the flames by soaking the teen in water.
After that, they rushed the 12-year-old to the hospital.
Landers is now in intensive care at a children’s hospital. According to People magazine, the girl will stay there for the next few months as she recovers from second and third-degree burns sustained on 49 percent of her body.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Owens and her family pay for the medical bills that will come as a result of these burns.
“Her vitals are good, but she’s still on a ventilator and feeding tube,” her mom told People magazine. “They’re slowly trying to wean her off the ventilator. It will be a long recovery. She had surgery and received temporary artificial skin to her burns, but she’s going to need three or four more surgeries and skin grafts.”
It wasn’t until after her daughter was at the hospital that Owens learned what had caused the fire in the first place.
What Is The ‘Fire Challenge’?
Apparently, she had been trying the fire challenge, which involves covering yourself in rubbing alcohol and lighting yourself on fire. In theory, kids would put out the flames before they could be hurt. Tragically, that’s easier said than done.
The challenge has been injuring teens such as Landers and 16-year-old Fernando Valencia — who was burned on his waist and neck — since it first popped up online in 2014.
“After a while, her friends told me what happened,” Owens told People magazine. “I was angry, very angry. I couldn’t believe she would do that, she knows better — I don’t know what she was thinking, doing that crazy stuff.”
Sadly, these teens aren’t the first to be hospitalized or worse over a viral challenge. The unfortunate reality is that kids often don’t know any better and trust what they see on the internet.
Warning Others About The Fire Challenge
Once the mom learned about the fire challenge, she wanted to send a message to other parents.
“Monitor your kids, monitor what they’re doing,” she told People. “If you can get parental control on their phones, I would recommend that. That way they can monitor what their kids are watching, and talk to them about peer pressure. I’m doing that now with my other daughters, I’m doing that now. It was a lesson learned.”
The mom left another message to parents on the GoFundMe page for Timiyah:
“Children often do not realize that life is a precious gift and that they cannot copy things that they see on the internet,” she wrote. “I hope no other family has to go through this.”
Preventing Your Children From Doing Online Challenges
Experts say the best prevention method is talking to your kids about what they’re doing and seeing online. Nicholas Westers, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Health in Dallas, notes that in addition to talking to kids about their online lives, “Parents need to think about how inclined their child is to engage in risky behavior, how socially isolated their child may feel, how active their child is on social media and who their child spends time with on a regular basis,” he said.
CNN also points to modeling good online behavior as well as monitoring what your child is doing by checking in on their most recent posts.
Last but certainly not least, make sure your children know the larger context and consequences of online use. Not only can challenges be dangerous to your health, but future colleges, employers and even friends will be able to see that you took part in these viral sensations as well. Showing your teen how this could harm them in the future may be a great way of helping them understand just how fleeting and non-important viral challenges are in the larger scope.