A 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma died this week after participating in a dangerous social media trend on Tik-Tok, according to local TV report.
The boy, who has not been identified, was found unresponsive by police late Monday in a breezeway of a Bethany, Oklahoma, apartment with ligature marks around his neck, according to KWTV-DT. He was taken to the University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital and died the following day, police said.
Family members told detectives that the death is believed to have been caused by the boy’s participation in the “blackout challenge” on Tik-Tok, according to KWTV-DT.
In the challenge, Tik-Tok users choke themselves until they lose consciousness. As they regain consciousness, they experience a euphoria-like feeling, Bethany Police Lt. Angelo Orefice told WMUR.
Following the death, authorities warned parents about the dangerous trend and urged them to monitor their kids’ social media activity.
“Now more than ever due to the lockdowns, kids are bored and looking to occupy their time,” Orefice said in a news release, according to KWTV-DT. “Social media is a very influential part of a child’s life and should be heavily scrutinized by parents.”
The “blackout challenge” has been blamed for multiple deaths involving adolescents this year. In June, 9-year-old LaTerius “TJ” Smith Jr. from Tennessee was found dead in his closet, his family said. And in March 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus from Colorado was found breathless on the bathroom floor, according to a GoFundMe made by his family
The “choking game,” a similar action to the “blackout challenge,” predates social media trends and has led to dozens of deaths, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported 82 deaths from 1995 to 2007 because of the “choking game.” Most victims were boys ages 11 to 16, the report said.
Social media challenges are especially attractive to adolescents, who look to their peers for cues about what’s cool, crave positive reinforcement from their friends and social networks, and are more prone to risk-taking behaviours, particularly when they know they’re being observed by those whose approval they covet.