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Parents sue TikTok after daughter dies from social media ‘blackout’ challenge

One of the most popular parts of social media, especially the video sharing platform TikTok, are challenges. People, particularly young people and children, love participating in them and the online attention they receive when they do. Unfortunately, too often these TikTok challenges are dangerous. The latest of these includes the Blackout Challenge, which has now left two young children dead in their attempts to participate. The Parents of these children are now suing the platform for negligence.

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Parents Suing TikTok Over Dangerous Blackout Challenge

The blackout challenge is basically what it sounds like. Film yourself choking yourself until you pass out and put it online. This challenge is not new – it has been around long before social media existed. The popular network TikTok, however, has given it a rebirth in a very profound way. Its algorithm, which is designed to direct challenges to young people’s feeds, but this dangerous challenge in front of users all across the country and even the world. Sadly, two children last year died attempting the blackout challenge. Their parents are now suing TikTok, saying that they knew the challenge was making the rounds and yet didn’t take appropriate action to stop it. (1)

In February of last year, nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo from Wisconsin died of asphyxiation after attempting the blackout challenge, which she found on TikTok. Similarly, eight-year-old Lalani Walton of Texas died attempting the same challenge in July of last year. She also first came across the challenge on TikTok. Arriani’s mother Christal says that her little girl loved following different TikTok trends. She regularly attempted different food trends or dances she saw going viral on the app. Her parents never imagined that TikTok challenges could have such a dark side.

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Arriani Jaileen Arroyo
Arriani Jaileen Arroyo. Image Credit: The Arroyo Family

Pursuing Legal Action

Together, Arriani and Lalani’s parents are pursuing legal action against TikTok for the deaths of their children. Their goal in speaking out about what happened to their own children is to prevent it from happening to any more kids.

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“We just want people to be aware, because we don’t want no other children out there to be a statistic of this situation again,” said Arriani’s father Heriberto.“We want to make sure that we can save other kids.”

The Social Media Victims Law Center filed the lawsuit on their behalf, as well as that of other victims’ families. The lawsuit claims that TikTok knew that the challenge was dangerous and that children were dying attempting it. Despite this, they didn’t do enough to prevent that challenge from making it into users’ “for you” pages.

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“At all times relevant, TikTok’s algorithm was designed to promote ‘TikTok Challenges‘ to young users to increase their engagement and maximize TikTok’s profits,” the lawsuit states. “TikTok outrageously took no and/or completely inadequate action to extinguish and prevent the spread of the Blackout Challenge and specifically to prevent its algorithm from directing children to the Blackout Challenge, despite notice and/or foreseeability that such a failure would inevitably lead to more injuries and deaths, including those of children,”

Arroyo family
Image Credit: Arroyo family | GMA

Read: Missing Teen Rescued After Making SOS Hand Gesture She Learned from TikTok

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Not A New Game

To be clear, this challenge was not invented by a TikTok user or by TikTok itself. Seemingly first invented sometime in the 1970s, but perhaps even earlier, The Choking Game was popular for several years before becoming a trend on social media. According to the CDC, there were 82 deaths due to accidental strangling because of the game between 1995 and 2007. The victims were all between the ages of six and 12 years old. (2)

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TikTok’s Response

TikTok has not given any recent statements regarding the lawsuit or the deaths associated with children participating in the blackout challenge because of their platform. When asked, a spokesperson for the app thus far has directed media outlets to a statement made last year.

“This disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend. We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss,” the year-old statement says.

Now, if you log onto TikTok and search the hashtag “blackout challenge”, the app automatically redirects you to their user guidelines. This is the typical response from the app when they find a hashtag is related to dangerous or harmful posts.

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Monitor Your Kids

Experts are now warning parents to constantly be checking their kids’ phones to see what is appearing on their feeds and also what they might be searching for. Also, it is incredibly important to regularly talk with your children about social media trends, safety, and what they should and shouldn’t be attempting. 

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“You never know what you might find on their phones. You wouldn’t think 10-year-olds would try this. They’re trying because they’re kids, and they don’t know better.” says Pennsylvania mom Tawainna Anderson after losing her 10-year-old daughter to the blackout challenge. (3)

Doctor Linda Charmaraman says the social media conversation is not just one big talk. Rather, it is a continuous, ongoing exploration of the internet world versus the real world. She says that many children, especially younger ones, don’t understand the real-life consequences that these challenges can have. They are very trusting and think because they see others doing something on the internet that nothing bad can happen to them.

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“[Children] have this trust that nothing bad’s gonna happen to them,” Charmaraman said. “And they don’t think as carefully as somebody who’s two years older or four years older, that there could be consequences not just on their physical health but their mental health, on their spiritual health.”

Keep Reading: Women Are Warning Creators About The TikTok Silhouette Challenge

Sources

  1. Parents sue TikTok after daughter dies attempting ‘blackout’ social media challenge.” Good Morning America. Briana Alvarado. July 21, 2022.
  2. Unintentional Strangulation Deaths from the “Choking Game” Among Youths Aged 6–19 Years — United States, 1995–2007.” CDC
  3. The ‘Blackout Challenge’ Has Resurfaced On TikTok, And It’s Still Just As Dangerous As It Was 16 Years Ago.” Womens Health Mag. Sarah Felbin, Sabrina Talbert and Addison Aloian. July 19, 2022.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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