Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:29 a.m.

As an intern at Petaluma People Services Center, I have an opportunity to work with at-risk youth who are living with social, economic and environmental issues. Sometimes these issues can be brought on by the individual, but in many cases, certain environmental or economic boundaries get in their way at no fault of their own.
Today our youth live in a tech savvy environment, where there is always a new app for your smartphone or a new social outlet where you can immediately connect with people. Facebook was one of the first social media outlets where people could post status updates of what they’re doing or just post a video showing exactly what they’re up to — videos that made us laugh, cry and have the potential to bring up controversial topics. More recently, there seems to be one popular Facebook video that keeps showing up on my page. It’s part of an Internet phenomenon that is reaching our youth and young adult population of Petaluma, Sonoma County and other counties in California. Visit the page of your daughter or son and you may see what most call the “Beer Chug Challenge.” The drinking game, which is also called Neknominating, got its start in Australia and has become a dangerous social media pastime in which short videos are shot while someone chugs a beer. That person then uploads the video and nominates three of their friends to do the exact same “Beer Chug Challenge.” If the challenge is not completed in 24 hours, that friend owes the person who nominated them alcohol, whether it be a free beer, a free shot or an entire bottle of free alcohol. It is speculated that it began with individuals who were legally permitted to drink, meaning those who were 21 or over. At first it was just friends simply taking a video of someone chugging one beer and posting it on Facebook, before tagging their friends to the challenge. But, of course, it never stops there. Soon, some of the individuals who were getting nominated were under 21. Individuals soon began trying to upstage each other’s video and drinks of choice in the “Beer Chug Challenge.” What started as a adult game is now reaching the underage population, and videos are becoming increasingly dangerous and illegal with the stunts being posted. Through my studies at Sonoma State University and multiple guest lectures from public officials in Sonoma County, it has come to my attention that our District Attorney’s office has a team of prosecutors and attorneys whose sole focus is on prosecuting Internet and technological crimes. In today’s world, people can get convicted of crimes through posting their misdeeds on different Internet and social media sites. This issue is not only important for the safety of the community’s youth, but also their legal well-being. In college and high school, we all made some mistakes. Now someone can make a mistake and immediately share it by posting it with the world. Young people don’t always fully comprehend that legal officials, employers, family and friends have immediate access to these posts. These videos will stay with you forever and it is always hard to reverse or delete something that you have sent to the Internet. Even if someone deletes a post, other individuals still have the opportunity to view it, save the post, copy the post and send it to other individuals. Even more, the person who posted that video may influence someone else to do the same thing, or take it a step further. This is a call to action to all parents, teacher and community members to let everyone know that these challenges are happening in Petaluma and we all need to pay attention to this and speak up. (Paige Smith is a student at Sonoma State University studying criminal justice).

Questioning the dangers of ‘The Beer Chug Challenge’