Social media app TikTok blamed for deaths caused by the #blackoutchallenge

Lashaun Turner

Who should be responsible for kids social media habits? A lawsuit filed by families of children who participated in a challenge blame TikTok for their deaths.
Image of TikTok app on a

Disclaimer This article does not promote or glorify suicide or self-harm and encourages parents to speak to their children about the life–threatening dangers associated with the game and to seek additional help if necessary.

Families are suing the social media app Tik Tok over the "blackout challenge," a challenge where you choke yourself with a belt, purse strings or other items to intentionally cut off oxygen to the brain and blackout. Allegedly as many as seven children have died because of asphyxiation after attempting this challenge.

A lawsuit has been filed by the Social Media Victims Law Center on behalf of two children ages 8 and 9 who died in the last year by asphyxiation after attempting the blackout challenge. The lawsuit is alleging the platforms algorithms suggested the challenge on kids TikTok "For You" pages.

TikTok In a previous statement involving the death of a 10-year old said “this disturbing challenge, which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform.”

Indeed, there have been similar choking games seen on other apps and in fact reports of fatalities due to the game can be traced back to 2008 when the CDC reported at least 82 youth died as a result of playing the choking game.

The choking game’s objective differed slightly and involved intentionally trying to choke oneself or another to obtain a brief euphoric state or some sort of high.

Social media platforms responsibility in child well being

TikTok’s Terms of Service state that users must be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account and have full access to the platform, in compliance with the U.S.’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The platform offers digital well-being guidance and tools to enable parents to monitor and support their teens online. Some have suggested that the age of participation should be raised.

Do parents have a responsibility to monitor their kids social media?

Parents in the United States are the primary gatekeepers and managers of their teens’ internet experience. Parents are also responsible for keeping their teens safe online and offline and have a number of tools at their disposal to do so. Pew Research

Public comments on Twitter seem to mirror the sentiment of parent responsibility:

First and foremost it's tragic. Secondly, why is a 9 year old on ticktock[TikTok]? -Twitter User
As a parent, I would be punishing myself. So incredibly sad. -Twitter User
The parents should parent and monitor their kids on social media. Kids this age shouldn’t even be on tiktok. -Twitter User
Bad parenting, there are plenty stupid things can get kids killed parents are responsible for them . Should not let kids on Tik Tok ever. Twitter User

Others point out that it may be difficult to win this lawsuit because the Terms of Service clearly state the minimum age allowed on the platform is 13. Regardless some think the social media app targets and markets dangerous content to kids and should be responsible when kids act on these challenges.

What can parents do?

Parents are advised to stay involved and engaged with your child in what they are seeing and doing on social media and to remind them how important it is not to give in to peer pressure. Most apps also have screen time management and restricted modes.

This non-satirical, un-opinionated, fully attributed, and unbiased article was written by Lashaun Turner, Reporter/Journalist, and contains information compiled from the following sources: Bloomberg, Pew Research, ABC News, TikTok.

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Lashaun is a Journalist, Reporter, and Viral Content Creator covering Local Stories, Food, Crime, Politics, & Travel with NEWSBREAK since June 2021.- JADED: Journalism with a Touch of Shade is Lashaun's views and opinions on various trending topics. Lashaun aka Lady I.M.PRE$S is a former NBC/CNBC Affiliate KCAA Broadcaster for "Cali's BEST" Radio Show airing on 102.3FM & 106.5FM from 2016-2020. Lashaun has been in the Media & P.R field for over 11 years and has interviewed an estimated 20k Celebrities and Entrepreneurs. Lashaun also produced & hosted Blaze Indie L.A TV show on LA's Channel 36 from 2014-2016

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