The dangerous trend of ‘skywalking’ threatens the lives of Australian teens, especially recent high school graduates partying hard at ‘schoolies’ across the nation, experts have warned.
Skywalking or ‘rooftopping’, is a viral trend where people climb on top of high-rise buildings and take selfies or photos to upload to social media. It is said to have gained popularity in 2011, after video circulated of a Russian teen performing the stunt.
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg told The New Daily the trend was one of the worst to date.
“There’s been a lot of them [viral trends], but I mean there’s no coming back from this, really. You’d be lucky to get away with a serious spinal injury, but the alternative of course is death,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
“You’ve got a perfect storm of risk factors, so you’ve got an image of a teenage brain and whatever common sense is in there is going to be diluted by alcohol and drugs.”
There are already concerns for safety at the popular schoolies parties, with police commandos deployed to the Gold Coast to thwart any potential terrorist attacks.
On Friday, Queensland police arrested 27 alleged drug dealers operating online in order to stem the flow of illicit substances to the celebration. The use of drugs could increase the danger of ‘skywalking’.
Several deaths already have been linked to the craze, including a French tourist, who fell from a Melbourne CBD tower earlier this year.
A Russian teen who’d taken several photos also died when he fell nine floors from a rooftop while attempting to take a selfie for his Instagram page.
With schoolies celebrations looming, experts were concerned that teenagers could be lured or peer-pressured into trying it, putting their lives at risk.
Strata Community Australia (SCA), the peak body representing body corporates and managers, has warned building managers on the Gold Coast to be wary of teens performing the stunt.
SCA’s chief executive Kim Henshaw said managers of high-rise buildings had been told to implement electronic locking systems and that the vast majority had already done so.
“We certainly have advocated a zero tolerance approach which means that if any kids are found doing this sort of thing than we recommend that they be referred to the police,” Mr Henshaw told The New Daily.
“You’ve only got to look at social media to understand this is a craze that’s been increasing in frequency for the last 12 months or so.”
In Australia, skywalking is called ‘rooftopping’ and is linked to an activity known as urban exploration (Urbex).
Urban exploration is the exploration of man-made structures, including abandoned ruins or elements of the man-made environment.
The dangerous activity often involves trespassing and is typically shared to social media apps such as Instagram.
Online forums such as Reddit and Flickr are used to discuss ideal locations and spots for urban explorers, as well as sharing images.
Not the first harmful trend
The viral trend is just one of many which has taken off over the past few years.
Last year, the extreme drinking game, ‘neknomination’, began in Australia and quickly went global, with users posting videos of themselves skolling alcohol and then nominating friends to do the same.
Planking was another trend that gained similar momentum in Australia in 2011. It involved individuals taking photos of themselves with their face planted on a hard surface.
Dr Carr-Gregg warned the consequences of skywalking were far worse, suggesting the problem could be “impossible” to prevent.
“You can’t have people kind of there [monitoring] 24/7 so I’m afraid it’s almost inevitable that an accident happens,” he said.