Officials Warn Parents About TikTok Trend Sparking House Fires: 'Look for Signs of Fire Play'
The video challenge involves teens sliding a penny behind a phone charger that is plugged into an electrical outlet
Officials in Massachusetts are alerting parents of a “dangerous” video trend that teens have been participating in, which authorities say has led to multiple fire incidents in the area.
In an advisory released on Tuesday, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey notified parents of the new challenge, which he said originated on video-sharing platform TikTok and involves “the unsafe use of electricity and fire,” TV station WHDH reported.
Ostroskey explained that teens are recording themselves sliding a penny behind a phone charger that is partially plugged into an electrical outlet. When the coin hits the exposed metal prongs, sparks shoot out of the outlet, causing electrical system damage, possible injury, and in some cases, fires.
So far, there have been two documented fire incidents in the state — one at a residence in Holden and another at a high school in Westford, Ostroskey confirmed.
The incident in Holden was reported after a mother noticed the outlet on her wall appeared to be “scorched” and burnt, as shown in a photo obtained by the State Fire Marshal.
The other involved one or multiple students at Westford Academy, whom Ostroskey said will be held responsible for starting a fire at the high school and are expected to face charges.
“This video is a concern and similar to past viral videos that encourage unsafe behavior,” Ostroskey noted, referencing similar dangerous viral challenges, such as the Fire Challenge, the Cinnamon Challenge, and the Tide Pod Challenge.
To prevent further incidents, the State Fire Marshal urged parents to “look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets” and to speak with their children about fire safety.
“Have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers,” he said. “S.A.F.E. educators might reach out to their school partners because teaching why this is dangerous could be a good science lesson.”
A rep for TikTok did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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The HFD reminded parents in their release to follow fire safety tips, including fully inserting plugs into the sockets, installing tamper-resistant electrical outlets for young children, replacing any outlets that appear to be damaged, and avoiding overloading outlets.
“Participating in any of these viral trends or challenges can be dangerous and have serious repercussions,” added CFD Chief Charles E. Doody. “We want parents to be aware of this trend so they can help to educate their kids about the danger and prevent possible fires, electrical damage or injuries.”