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Parents need to know about dangerous teen trends

From vampire biting to planking, F-M parents might be surprised by some of these teen trends

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - Teenagers have always engaged in questionable behavior. It seems to almost be a rite of passage into adulthood. But some of the risky things teens are trying these days are scary enough to make any parent sleep with the lights on.

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The website iVillage.com, based in New York City and part of the NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks Group, recently released a list of dangerous teen fads parents should know about.

The Forum checked with local law enforcement to find out which, if any, of these teen trends have been reported here.

Dangerous substances

If you are what you eat, some of these substances could make you sick, or worse.

* Datura Flower Abuse

This common plant, also known as Angel's Trumpet or Jimson Weed, can cause a high when ingested, but it's also incredibly toxic, according to iVillage.com. Even small doses can send kids to the hospital with serious illness, and eating too much of it is deadly.

* Purple drank

Also known as sizzurp or lean, purple drank is a street concoction made with promethazine with codeine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

IVillage reported that the concoction, which often includes Sprite and a Jolly Rancher candy, can be lethal and makes people unresponsive and lethargic and have hallucinations.

While local law enforcement officers haven't come across issues with purple drank, they have dealt with students "Robo-tripping," or drinking Robitussin cough medicine to get high.

Serious side effects include blurred vision, loss of physical coordination, abdominal pain and rapid heartbeat.

Sexual experimentation

* Chatroulette

Chatroulette and similar websites randomly pair strangers for online video chatting without security blocks or filters.

James Gunter, editor of The Crime Map and director of social media for CrimeReports.com, tested out Chatroulette and came across lots of shirtless college-aged men wearing sunglasses in visibly darkened rooms, creepy men touching themselves, and people giving rude hand gestures.

* Vampire biting

Some teenagers are biting each other, apparently inspired by the popularity of vampire movies like "Twilight" and TV shows like "True Blood." CBS News reported that the biting is a way to show possession.

"I've come across a couple of students who claim to be vampires, but everyone I would talk to said they weren't actually drinking blood," said Mike Clower, Fargo Police Department school resource officer. "There are kids out there who play along with that."

Unsafe stunts

One of the biggest dangers for local teens is inexperience behind the wheel of a car, said Joe Crawford, Cass County Sheriff's Office school resource deputy.

Cass County Sheriff's Office School Resource Deputy Greg Dawkins has also had to speak with students about hazardous driving in the country.

Nationwide, car surfing and trunking are dangerous trends that have cost teenagers their lives.

* Car surfing

Car surfing involves standing as if surfing on a moving vehicle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 58 reports of car-surfing deaths and 41 reports of nonfatal injuries from 1990 through August 2008. Most reports of car-surfing injuries came from newspapers in the Midwest and South, and most of the injuries were among 15- to 19-year-old boys.

Clower said students in the Fargo-Moorhead area will sometimes set up a tow-rope and skate-board behind cars.

* Trunking

Connect with Kids, a multi-media company reported that teens are illegally driving with passengers riding inside the trunks of their vehicles to get around laws that ban new drivers from having other kids in the car.

This hasn't been an issue here yet, but Clower said with the new restricted driver's licenses taking effect Jan. 1 in North Dakota, law enforcement officers will be watching for this trend.

Risks of trunking can include carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes, heat stroke, and suffocation, according to Yale Medical Group.

* Planking

Planking involves lying like a board or plank face-down with straight legs and arms in an unexpected place and then posting a photo of the plank online. The problem is, some take it to extremes by planking in dangerous places like on top of light posts, on the edge of a cliff or on a balcony railing, as in the case of a 20-year-old Australian man who died in May after falling from a seven-story balcony railing on which he was trying to balance.

Timeless treacherous trends

As crazy as they seem, some teen fads seem to have stood the test of time.

* Ball-tapping

Ball-tapping involves hitting a man hard in the testicles. Videos of this have been posted on YouTube, and the practice has been used to bully and intimidate, but it can also lead to infertility.

KARE 11 News in Minneapolis reported in May 2010, that then-14-year-old David Gibbons of Crosby, Minn., had to have his right testicle removed after being punched in the groin by another student.

Dr. Scott Wheeler, a Brainerd urologist, told KARE that he performs three to four surgeries a year on boys with ruptured testicles and other complications of being groin punched. He sees dozens more with less severe injuries, he said.

* The Choking Game

Teens choke themselves or each other as a way to experience mild euphoria without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. But thousands of adolescents die or suffer permanent brain damage playing this "game" each year, according to G.A.S.P., Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play, an international not-for-profit association founded to put end to the choking game.

* Aerosol flame throwers

Following tutorials on YouTube, teens are creating makeshift flamethrowers by spraying Axe body spray and holding a lighter up to the stream.

ABC News reported that although using aerosol cans to start fires is nothing new, because Axe body spray is so popular and available to teen boys, fire departments and burn centers are seeing an increased use in makeshift Axe flamethrowers.

Fads or urban legends?

* Vodka eyeballing

The New York Daily News reported on a drinking trend called vodka eyeballing believed to have started in Las Vegas nightclubs and migrated to college campuses. Participants apparently tilt back their heads and have vodka poured onto their eye. They claim it gives an instant high and deeper inebriation, but doctors say not only is that untrue, but it can cause permanent, long-term damage.

Web magazines Slate and Gawker have put out stories arguing vodka eyeballing isn't a trend but is mainly media hype.

"Every once in a while, you'll hear about ways people try to put alcohol into their system to avoid detection," Clower said. "That's something I've only read about. I've never come across it locally."

* Rainbow parties

Rainbow parties supposedly involve a group of girls, each wearing a different lipstick color, performing oral sex on one or multiple guys. The issue has been a topic of novels, blogs and TV shows, but some say it's nothing more than an urban legend.

The New York Times reported that "many sex researchers and adolescent-health professionals say that rainbow parties are not a big part of teenage sexual behavior."

Teens here know about it but say it's not going on, according to local law enforcement.

Talk it out

Barb Chromy, an Employee Assistance Program Counselor with The Village Family Service Center, said that even if most of these trends are not issues many parents are dealing with here, it's still important for parents to be aware of what's going on.

"Developmentally, the teen age really is a time where kids do experiment with different things," she said. "It's not abnormal to push boundaries and limits."

Good communication with teenagers is very important, she said, adding that just because parents talk about real-world dangers does not mean their children will engage in those behaviors.

Parents can encourage appropriate risk-taking though sports or hobbies so teens can experience that excitement without the danger, she said.

She said a lot of the trends develop because kids are bored and they don't have adequate supervision.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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