Schools, fire chiefs warn against viral video challenge

Updated 1/24/2020 6:17 PM

Three students at Metea Valley High School in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 tried a social media challenge Thursday involving a phone charger, a penny and an electrical outlet, causing damage to the outlet and spurring a warning from district officials and fire chiefs.

No one was injured, and the students were given unspecified disciplinary consequences, District 204 spokeswoman Janet Buglio said Friday.


But the potential for harm is why the district and the fire chiefs in Aurora and Naperville wanted to reach out with an email message to parents, she said.

The message -- sent also to parents and community members in Naperville Unit District 203 -- warns students not to try a challenge found first on the video-sharing social network TikTok. The challenge involves "plugging a phone charger partially into an outlet and then sliding a penny down the wall until it makes contact with the charger's prongs, causing the outlet to smoke and spark," the warning message said.

Aurora Fire Chief Gary Krienitz said the danger comes from the potential sparks. Pictures with news stories about the challenge in past days from publications in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere show outlets with one plug charred and blackened.

"Anytime you have an unintentional fire, it's really a dangerous situation. Kids can walk away from it thinking it's out," Kreinitz said. "We teach kids early on not to play with matches, and this is just the next the level."

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Naperville Unit District 203 spokeswoman Sinikka Mondini said the district is not aware of any students trying the challenge yet.

"We would rather have parents get ahead of this with their children than being reactive," she said Friday. "We think that when we send these collaborative messages from both districts and city officials, it resonates within our community."

The intent of the message is to make parents aware the challenge exists so they can talk with their children to discourage them from pursuing it. It also warns of the potential for serious injury to anyone who attempts to recreate the viral video.

"It's just curious that things can happen behind the scenes that us as adults might not even know are happening. These are dangerous things," Kreinitz said. "Kids might just think it's just some fun internet thing happening but not realize the danger of it."

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