Dr. Alan Hilfer, a child psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center, said he thinks the existing videos validate risky behavior for teens and give them a way to get notoriety if they post a video. He said he hears a lot about YouTube's amateur ultimate fighting videos, which show teen fights with are no rules -- just bare knuckles.
"A kid showed me his video of that, and it was appalling," he said. "These kids were beating each other to a pulp, and kids were standing around and cheering until somebody gave up."
Hilfer, who has worked as a child psychologist for four decades, said videos also validate anorexia and cutting by making them seem normal.
"When I first came into the field, nobody cut," he said.
However, Dr. Carol Bernstein, a psychiatry professor at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said she doesn't think YouTube alone is to blame for teens engaging in challenges that could seriously injure them because many factors are involved. She said other environmental factors, physiology, and temperament contribute to a child's decision to emulate a video.
"Stress here should be on knowing our children, watching behaviors and having conversations with them," Bernstein said. "There's no substitute for parents and teachers who are engaging with their kids in general."
She said if parents discover their child is hurting himself or herself in any way, they should have a conversation with that child. If necessary, she said parents should reach out to a pediatrician to see if he or she should be evaluated by a child psychologist.
"The message here if for parents to not be afraid to have conversations with their children," she said. "We need to do that.