12-year-old boy put on life support after partaking in dangerous TikTok challenge: 'Our family is devastated'

Emerald Pellot
·3-min read

Most TikTok challenges are harmless fun, but the recently popular Blackout Challenge has had at least one fatality in 2021.

Authorities are warning people to steer clear of the Blackout Challenge, which, like the Pass Out Challenge of 2020, can lead to asphyxiation.

Here’s what you need to know about the dangerous trend.

Related: TikTok users buy into disturbing rumor about bathroom chemicals

What is the Blackout Challenge on TikTok?

The game requires the participant to choke themselves until they pass out and wake up moments later. It’s easy to see why this is a bad idea.

Last year, the Pass Out Challenge, during which teens shook their heads from side to side until they lost consciousness, also yielded similarly frightening results.

A 10-year-old girl in Italy died doing the Blackout Challenge.

A little girl in Palermo was declared braindead after going into cardiac arrest attempting to participate in the Blackout Challenge.

“I am in shock, as I think the whole city is in shock, for the tragedy that today saw a child victim of ‘social challenges,'” Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando said in a statement.

The trend can cause fainting, brain damage and seizures even when it isn’t deadly, according to experts.

“What is actually going on in the brain is a lack of oxygen similar to when someone is drowning, choking or having a cardiac arrest,” Dr Nick Flynn told the Irish Examiner about challenges like this. “If you have low oxygen to the brain for over three minutes you can get brain damage and if you have low oxygen to the brain for over five minutes it can result in death.”

A 12-year-old boy in Aurora, Colo., is ‘fighting for his life’ after doing the Blackout Challenge.

On March 22, 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus was found “breathless” on the bathroom floor by his twin brother after participating in the Blackout Challenge, which he discovered on TikTok. According to a GoFundMe set up by his family, the young boy is on life support in the Children’s Hospital ICU in Denver, Colo., and doctors say his odds of surviving are “extremely unlikely.”

“He is very, very much a fighter,” Joshua’s father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, told Denver7. “I want others to see what I’m going through, learn for their children.”

“Our family is devastated beyond belief by Joshua’s circumstance,” the family wrote on their GoFundMe page. “We are saddened that someone who has a future as promising as Joshua is in such a critical and life-threatening situation at the moment. We are also concerned for other families who like ourselves, may not be aware of the existence of the Blackout Challenge and others like it. We are desperate not only to bring Joshua home, but to ensure that nothing like this happens to anyone else. We urge the community to spend awareness about Joshua and the real risks involved in not having knowledge of what kinds of activities children are involved in.”

How has TikTok responded to the Blackout Challenge?

“We do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous behavior that might lead to injury, and our teams work diligently to identify and remove content that violates our policies,” TikTok told Newsweek. “While we have not currently found evidence of content on our platform that might have encouraged such an incident off-platform, we will continue to monitor closely as part of our continuous commitment to keep our community safe.”

TikTok recommended reporting any Blackout Challenge video discovered on its platform.

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