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From Fun to Fear: The Hidden Cost of Trendy Parent-Kid Pranks Online 

Elvine Assouline - Founder

In today’s digital era, where trends are set and discarded overnight, social media platforms, especially TikTok, have seen a surge in parents “pranking” their kids. But there’s a rising debate on whether children can process these pranks as humor. Citing a recent BBC article, we delve into the child’s psychology behind understanding such trends, especially the infamous “Egg-Crack” challenge.

Table of Contents

The 'Egg-Crack' Phenomenon Explained

Gaining traction with almost 75 million views on TikTok as of 30th August, the #eggcrackchallenge sees caregivers cracking an egg over their unsuspecting child’s head, often leading to reactions ranging from tears to bewilderment. Many of these children are as young as toddlers or preschoolers, and while parents might laugh, these kids frequently don’t see the humor. In fact, they often appear hurt, both physically and emotionally.

Decoding the Child's Perception of Humor

As per the BBC article, there are psychological underpinnings that explain why children might not find such pranks funny:

  1. Understanding Prank Humor: Young children often struggle to grasp humor that involves “pranking” an unsuspecting individual. While adults or older children can quickly discern and laugh at the setup, young children might not comprehend the humor’s intent.
  2. The Fine Line: Experts highlight that there’s a thin boundary between pranking and bullying, especially when the joke’s victim is less empowered than the one executing the prank. As the common rule in comedy goes, it’s always better to “punch up, not kick down.” Given the inherent power dynamics, when an adult pranks a child, it always feels like a “kick down.”
  3. Theory of Mind: A significant cognitive development, the ‘Theory of Mind’, allows individuals to attribute mental states, feelings, and expectations to others. This usually develops between 3.5 and 4.5 years of age. Therefore, even if a child recognizes incongruity or an object’s representation (like their head being treated as a bowl in the egg-crack challenge), they might not fully grasp the underlying joke.
  4. Trust Violation: The trust between a child and their caregiver is paramount. When pranks like the egg-crack challenge occur, they might inadvertently violate that trust, leading to potential long-term implications. As the caregiver prioritizes online validation (likes, views, etc.), the child’s emotional well-being might be overlooked.

In essence, while humor is subjective and varies across age groups, it’s crucial to gauge a child’s understanding and emotional response to a joke or prank. As we create content or indulge in viral trends, it’s essential to ensure that it’s not at the expense of a child’s emotional well-being.

Trust Concerns Arising from Pranks

One of the foundational aspects of a child’s development is the bond of trust they share with their caregivers. When this trust is compromised, even if unintentionally, the repercussions can be lasting. Rachel Melville-Thomas, a child psychotherapist, points out that these pranks might momentarily prioritize the caregiver’s online accolades over the child’s emotional state. The #eggcrackchallenge, for instance, is more than just an egg cracking on the child’s head; it’s a violation of the trust that says, “I am here to protect you, not harm you.” As children are still forming their understanding of the world, such pranks might lead them to question their security, wondering, “Will it happen again?”

Balancing Parental Intent with a Child's Feelings

The intention behind most pranks is usually harmless fun. Many parents might genuinely believe their child will find it as humorous as they do. However, Paige Davis, a developmental psychologist, brings to light the cognitive gap between understanding intent and the actual execution of the prank. Parents might see it as a light-hearted joke, but for the child, it’s a reality where they became the unsuspecting victim of a confusing action. Understanding this difference is crucial. While no parent is expected to be flawless, recognizing a child’s emotions and feelings in the aftermath of such events can pave the way for emotional repair and understanding.


The realm of social media has blurred the lines between harmless fun and potential emotional distress, especially when it involves young children. The rapid rise of trends like the #eggcrackchallenge underscores the need for parents and caregivers to navigate this digital age with heightened awareness. While the idea of garnering likes and views can be enticing, it’s essential to prioritize the emotional and psychological well-being of our youngest members of society. As Melville-Thomas aptly puts it, mistakes are human, but it’s the act of acknowledging them, addressing them, and teaching our children the value of understanding and repair that truly makes a difference.

Additional Resources:

Books on Child Development and Humor:

  • The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life by Alison Gopnik.
  • Children’s Humor: A Psychological Analysis by Paul E. McGhee.

Books on Trust in Relationships:

  • The Psychology of Trust by Ken J. Rotenberg.
  • Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life by Robert C. Solomon and Fernando Flores.

Online Articles and Journals:

  • Journal of Child and Family Studies: An interdisciplinary forum that shares the latest research findings on topics related to child development.
  • Journal of Adolescent Research: Focuses on the experiences and developmental trajectories of children and adolescents.


  • Zero to Three (www.zerotothree.org): A site focused on the early years of child development, offering resources for parents and professionals.
  • Child Development Institute (www.childdevelopmentinfo.com): Provides information on child development, psychology, parenting, learning, health, and safety.

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