Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is urging young people to think about the consequences of getting caught up in social media trends after 18 children had to be cut free from swings across Merseyside in the last two months.
The warning comes following a spike in children and teenagers finding themselves stuck in baby and infant swings in playgrounds and parks.
Since the beginning of April, fire crews have responded to 18 incidents involving people trapped in swings. 14 of these incidents took place in May alone.
It is believed the incidents are linked to a challenge on video-sharing app TikTok. Fire services across the UK spoke out last year about the number of 999 calls they received to assist people in similar situations, with the craze now seeming to have reached Merseyside.
The majority of the incidents attended by MFRS involved young people between the ages of 11 and 15. Of these incidents, 11 took place in Knowsley – four of which were in Webster Park and three in Memorial Park in Kirkby. Two incidents took place in Sefton, Wirral and Liverpool, and one in St Helens.
Some of the incidents have seen crews able to release the youngsters without the need for tools, but others have led to the complete dismantling of the swings, rendering them unusable to other members of the local community.
Thankfully no one was injured as a result of these incidents, but MFRS is calling on teenagers to think twice about taking part in such challenges or dares.
Ben Ryder, Area Manager for Operational Response at MFRS, said: “We attend all kinds of different incidents with people needing our assistance from a whole host of situations. We are built to help – it’s in our nature – but these kind of incidents are completely avoidable, unnecessary and cause a huge expense to local authorities.”
A Knowsley Council spokesperson said: “Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service provide a crucial service to our communities and it’s unacceptable that a small number of people are wasting their valuable time in this way. I would encourage parents to speak to their children and explain the consequences of this behaviour. I would also say to our young people that while we welcome you to use our parks and green spaces please don’t participate in behaviour that puts yourself and others at risk.”
AM Ryder added: “We would urge young people to think twice before trying to imitate the latest dare or challenge they have seen online. It might seem like a bit of fun and it might increase your following online, but is it worth it? You could be injured as a result, it causes damage to playgrounds that have to be cut apart to free you, leaving them unusable by other members of the community who want to enjoy these facilities in a responsible way. We are lucky to have free and easy access to our parks and playgrounds – don’t ruin it for everyone else.
“Incidents like this tie up already stretched fire service resources, diverting crews away from more serious, potentially life-threatening incidents. Every single incident our crews attend takes time to deal with. Every minute counts when someone’s life is at risk - remember, we can’t be in two places at once.”