If you thought “Tide Pod Challenge” teens are stupid, you need to read this…

written by Marc E. Check January 29, 2018

 just spent the last few hours researching statistics abo­­­­ut t­­een mortality, and that wasn’t the most depressing part of my last few hours.  

The most depressing part of this evening’s work was bearing witness to the collective laziness and unfathomable stupidity of my generation, the generation of so-called “adults” that constantly bemoan the stupidity of millennials and Gen-Zers in a ridiculous repeated mantra of “kids these days…”

Those “kids these days,” with minimal effort or even direct intent, just made many of us look like a bunch of slobbering imbeciles.  

We have been trolled and it serves us right.

We deserve every bit of embarrassment coming our way for taking the so-called “Tide Pod Challenge” seriously and promoting it in mainstream media with such little critical consideration of what exactly this phenomenon is.  

We also deserve to be ridiculed for our complete failure to interpret statistical information, or worse yet to purposely misinterpret it to advance a sensationalized agenda that, regardless of truth or accuracy, creates more clicks.

I’m not just talking about the always and ultra-concerned suburban soccer mommies who constantly share things you should “be aware of” concerning your child’s safety on Facebook without doing any actual fact-checking of those things.  I’m talking about our so-called “journalists” and “editors” from prominent publications like the New York Times, Fox News, and the Washington Post who released sensationalized headlines including:

Yes, everyone knows eating Tide Pods is a bad idea.

Any time someone says “everyone,” we should assume that does not literally mean 100% of the population.  Statistically, there is always that very small tail-end of a bell curve, the outlying individuals that are for one reason or another so far from center, in the furthest possible standard deviation away from the mean, that they will do the unthinkable.  These are the fringes in which the serial killers reside.  These are the oddities and the inevitable mis-wired individuals who, despite all innate logic and appropriately modeled behavior will do crazy things, like chowing down on a Tide Pod.

When I say that “everyone” knows that eating Tide Pods is a bad idea, please know that I mean more accurately that 99.8% of us know eating Tide Pods is a bad idea.

That little statistical implication is also the problem inherent in these headlines, but in the opposite direction, because when it is stated that “people are really eating Tide Pods,” it is true.  Fortunately, it is only true for much less than the 0.02% of the fringe population that I mentioned previously.  This is not a problem that is creeping in to the larger part of the bell curve, despite our efforts to make ourselves believe it is.

When it is stated that “Teens are eating more Tide Pods than ever,” statistically they are.  The statement is true.  If even one more teen ate a Tide Pod this January compared to last year, it makes this statement true, but does it make the statement significant?  Absolutely not, and that is the reality concerning our Tide Pod national emergency.  The statistics that are being used to qualify these sensationalized headlines are the very same statistics that reveal that the Tide Pod challenge poses minimal, if any health risk to our nation’s teens, and is beyond a shadow of a doubt not an epidemic as most media would have you think.

Why then, is this story that is not a story being so readily repeated and regurgitated with increasing hyperbole and sensationalism by every major media producer?  Obviously, it’s because this story sells, but why does this story sell so easily and quickly in our country?  Of all things facing us as a nation, why are we so willing to let our thoughts and energies go to Tide Pods?  Why do we embrace this story and treat it as a real threat to our teens when it is very clearly not?

 suggest that the answer lies in our collective subconscious.  We need someone to deflect our guilt and frustrations on, and with sexism and racism being so (rightfully) taboo in our society, we turn to our perfectly reliable targets of our passive aggressiveness, our teen children. 

What is it about my generation that constantly compels them to characterize the Millennials and Gen Z as stupid and lazy?  What sort of reasoning allows us to accept the Tide Pod Challenge trolling so willingly, without any semblance of fact-checking or critical analysis of the statistics behind these claims?   

We are already leaving our teens with what resembles an idiocracy, passing on our generation’s legacy of consumer debt, an environment in disrepair, the absence of any independent journalism, and a country owned and steered by monopolies.  Is that not enough? Have we not passed on to them enough of our failures?  Do we really have to additionally believe and perpetuate a story that these younger generations are so hopelessly stupid that they would eat concentrated detergent on dares over the internet, en masse, at rates so alarming that it is causing a national health crisis?  Do we really need the raw power and force of Rob Gronkowski mobilized to save our nation’s teens from a mass suicide via laundry gel-packs right now, when he has another Super Bowl to worry about?! (Go Patriots!)

Even if these things were true about our younger generations, wouldn’t the fault be squarely ours as their parents, teachers, and mentors?

Well, our kids finally got one over on us, without even really trying.  They played into our natural tendency to point out how stupid they are, coupled with our at-best weak understanding of memes and the evolution of a humorous concept in largescale, multifaceted social media system.

My generation just got trolled hard, over Tide Pods of all things, and we so completely deserved it for being so blatantly disrespectful of this upcoming generation.

If you wrote, forwarded, embedded any blog or article, or verbally shared with friends and colleagues any serious concern about the nation’s children eating Tide Pods, then you should immediately go eat one yourself.

Does that seem harsh?  


et me explain why you should be treated so harshly:

In your efforts to make others aware of this vastly important national health crisis fueled by demented and deranged detergent-downing youth, you drew precious time, attention, and resources away from real issues that affect our youth in much more significant ways.  

You distracted the nation from real problems facing teens today with an unfounded concern about ingestion of Tide Pods, and likely did so not to actually “save” our teens, but to make yourself feel better.

Let me break this down for you…

The statistics cited by major media that are driving this frenzied call to action, urging us to stop our children from eating laundry detergent, are repeated in just about every single news release on the subject:

“The AAPCC reported 39 cases of teens being exposed to the detergent in Tide Pods in 2016 and 53 in 2017. However, the agency reported there have been 86 cases from Jan. 1 to Jan. 21, 2018 alone of teenagers eating the pods. The agency sent out a warning that the “intentional exposures” continued to rise.”

That is the statistic that has mobilized the manufacturer of the product, journalists from every major news outlet, and millions of concerned Facebook moms and dads who perpetuate these stories and spread unneeded concern over this non-issue.  

Let’s look at these numbers.  

What is the risk of your teen injuring themselves or worse yet dying from eating a Tide Pod?  What is the risk that your idiot-child will succumb to an Internet dare and eat this chemical cocktail, rendering him or her permanently injured or unable to remain in the land of the living with us “smart” adults?

We don’t know, because the AAPCC isn’t releasing those numbers, though they freely admit the following:

The term “exposure” means someone has had contact with the substance in some way; for example, ingested, inhaled, absorbed by the skin or eyes, etc. Not all exposures are poisonings or overdoses.

All we know, as of today is that the AAPCC had received calls for 119 teenager exposures in the first four weeks of 2018.

How many exposures were overdoses or poisonings?  With no clear data we must look back at previous year data sets, which reveal another interesting statistic:

In 2017, through December 31, poison centers received reports of 10,570 exposures to highly concentrated packets of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger.



In 2017 exposures to children ages 5 and under resulted in 10,570 cases for the AAPCC.  That is a rate of two-hundred and three cases per week. I have never heard a single peep from mainstream media or an impassioned plea from a soccer mom on Facebook about these babies being poisoned, but now that teens using social media have ramped up their numbers to forty cases a week in 2018 it’s become a national epidemic and dominated our news. 

This if anything should raise a red flag. Why are we paying so much attention to a handful of teens when many, many more children five and under have been affected by this issue? This media frenzy can’t really be about be trying to keep our kids safe, can it?  This again indicates our desire to spotlight the perceived stupidity of teens.

Okay, so how many children altogether, and specifically how many teens have been severely injured or died for laundry packets?

As of June 2017, as reported by NBC News, a total of two children and six adults with cognitive impairment died over the past five years as a result of ingesting the pods.  

A total of two children (ages not specified). 

Over the past five years.

This doesn’t seem like and epidemic or public health crisis, but let’s still try to assign a fair number to this calculation.  It hardly seems fair to use a metric of two child deaths every five years.  Even two deaths per year seems low, even though that’s severely inflating the statistical data.  Here’s an idea that surely errs on the side of caution:

Let’s assume the 53 reported cases of teens being exposed to the detergent in Tide Pods last year (2017) all resulted in deaths.  We know that’s not true, but it gives us a number to work with that errs on the side of caution and is at least based in a very real number of teen cases the AAPCC dealt with.

According to the most recent (2015) U.S. census data we had approximately 41,731,233 teenagers living in the United States.   The 53 cases handled last year means that the likelihood of your teen experiencing death by detergent using our respectfully cautious numbers for last year would be:

One in 787,382.

Let me repeat:

The chances of your teen hurting him or herself from Tide Pods is less than one in 787,381.

o put these odds in perspective

Your chances of dying from a lightning strike:  1 in 161,856

Your chances of drowning in a bath:  1 in 685,000

Your chances of dying from a train crash:  1 in 500,000

Furthermore, the overall risk of dying for teenagers (average annual death rate) is 1 in 2,020.

There are many ways your teen could die that are far more likely than ingestion of detergent pods.

Why then are we sounding the national alarm over what is an almost complete fabrication, a trolling by our own teenage sons and daughters that, at the absolute worst, would manifest in far less than one in 787,381 of our children?  Why is this “story” being so immediately and widely embraced as real and relevant in our media?

I’m sure the champions of our precious children, those suburban housewives who have already put together information nights at their local schools and libraries to educate other parents about this growing and dangerous trend of eating detergent pods will answer by saying, “If we can stop one meaningless death from Tide Pod ingestion isn’t it worth it?”

No.  It is most certainly not worth it.

You see, while the media and social media mavens rally around this Tide Pod story, despite the lack of any depth of substance or truth, and due greatly to the mere sensationalism of it, teens are struggling and dying.

eens are facing real problems, often with little to no support or recognition of their peril, largely because our attentions are so easily distracted by sensationalized “news” stories like this.

We are easily lulled in because we somehow want to believe kids these days are moronic enough to embrace these unsafe challenges.  I suggest that it makes us feel better about ourselves, and given what we’re leaving behind for them, it’s no small wonder that we attempt to cast blame and shame on them to deflect from our own failures as parents and responsible stewards of this planet.   

If you really wanted to sound an alarm and save teen lives, journalists would be writing and we would be sharing stories related to actual problems and dangers that plague our teenagers, those that really do contribute to teenage deaths at a much, much higher rate than the perceived problems caused by the Tide Pod Challenge.

That is my problem with these journalists, editors, and parents who perpetuate this dialogue which has no real basis in fact and when they do cite statistics, those statistics happen to illustrate clearly what a non-issue this is.

What is really affecting teen lives faster than any Tide Pod challenge?  

What real issues, issues with an exponentially higher likelihood of impacting or endangering a teenager’s life, aren’t given even a fraction of the media attention given to the Tide Pod Challenge and aren’t being discussed on social media with even a modicum of the energy and outrage given to laundry detergent pods? There are many, but here are a few I’d like to point out:

  • Suicide.  The chances of your teen committing suicide (from 2015 data, ages 15-19 only) is one in 7,042 for boys, one in 19,608 for girls, with rates doubling overall in recent years.
    Suicide is the second-highest cause of death for teenagers.  
  • Drug Overdoses, mainly from prescription opioid overdoses. Available 2015 data points to another alarming trend with teens where the likelihood of your teen dying from a drug overdose is one in 27,027.  This rate has doubled since 1999.   
  • Sexual Abuse.  1 in every 5 girls, and 1 in every 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.  20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males self-report a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.
  • Depression.  Data from 2016 indicates at least one major depressive episode among ages twelve to seventeen, which means your teen has approximately a one in eight chance of suffering depression as a teen.
  • Mental illness and anxiety. Approximately one in every 4–5 youth in the U.S. meets criteria for a mental disorder with severe impairment across their lifetime. As most mental disorders first emerge in childhood and adolescence, there is an increasing need for prevention and early intervention in the teen years.

It’s no small wonder our teens are depressed and anxious.

e let them be prescribed and get addicted to opiates, drop them off with “trusted” adults to be sexually assaulted, give them nothing but gloom and doom forecasts of a dystopian America that they will inherit, reinforce that they suffer mental illness, depression, and anxiety with little to no remedy that isn’t pharmaceutical, and then constantly tell them that they are the lazy and self-centered generation.

Nowhere in the mainstream media or social media have I seen the outpouring of concern over these very real issues that is even remotely comparable to the ridiculous, frenzied concerns I have seen surrounding the perceived risks of this contrived joke that has been played on adults called the Tide Pod Challenge.  

When we fell for it, we fell hard, and we continue to.  

We should be embarrassed and ashamed that we focus our energies on laundry detergent ingestion rather than depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, drug addiction, and suicide.  Addressing the first (perceived) problem, however requires only an admonishing of teens, while addressing the latter (very real and complex problems) require empathy, ownership of our contribution to the problems, and real work to remedy.

Teens never started the Tide Pod Challenge maliciously.  They were simply iterating on a meme for entertainment’s sake, but when our generation took it seriously and started to react (long after the meme and phenomenon had become passé for them, by the way), oblivious to the underlying humor and intent, who can blame them for keeping it going and stringing us along?  

It must be incredibly entertaining and satisfying for them…

…and simultaneously depressing.  

We are the idiots who don’t “get it,” taking this Tide Pod issue seriously despite the absence of any real data showing it’s a threat, reporting on it in the news daily, and using it for political posturing.  We are still their parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, coaches, and various other figures of supposed wisdom and authority, and we just reinforced beyond a shadow of a doubt how incredibly clueless and utterly selfish we are.

If you want a good look at the “lazy generation,” take a good long look in the mirror.


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