What is TikTok blackout challenge? Craze that may have caused Archie Battersbee & Leon Brown deaths explained
Archie Battersbee is thought to have attempted the online ligature challenge which left him ‘brain-stem dead’ after an accident.
A second teenager is thought to have died after taking part in a viral TikTok craze known as the blackout challenge.
Archie was diagnosed as "brain-stem dead" by doctors at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, who advised that his life support be turned off and that he be taken off of a ventilator.
It’s been speculated that it may have been the so-called ‘blackout challenge’.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is the blackout challenge?
The blackout challenge encourages people to film themselves hyperventilating until they pass out for social media.
The game essentially involves intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain, which has been labelled as dangerous by professionals.
While the blackouts seen in the majority of videos may all appear to be quickly recovered from, there is a risk of lasting damage.
Any activity that deprives the brain of oxygen has the potential to cause moderate to severe brain cell death leading to permanent loss of neurological function, lifelong mental disability, or even death.
According to the Daily Mail, one 12-year-old boy in the UK had to be “placed in an induced coma for 36 hours to prevent permanent damage” after he experienced severe pins and needles along with disorientation hours after doing the stunt.
Then there are the indirect risks of performing the challenges, such as concussions from colliding with objects as you collapse to the floor.
While the challenge is nothing new, social media allows dangerous trends and awareness of them to spread among young communities.
Similar “choking games” have been documented for years, with reasons for performing such feats ranging from general thrill seeking to the promise of an altered state of consciousness, or near-death experience.
What has TikTok said?
Speaking after Leon’s death, a TikTok spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to Leon Brown’s family during this incredibly difficult time.
“The safety of our community is our priority and we take any claim about a dangerous challenge very seriously. Content of this nature is prohibited on our platform and would be removed if found.”
And on the issue of the blackout challenge, in early 2021 - when the stunt first started spreading - it said: “We do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous behaviour that might lead to injury, and our teams work diligently to identify and remove content that violates our policies.”
The social media platform told Newsweek at the time: “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.”
What have parents said about the blackout challenge?
Leon’s mum Lauryn Keating told the Daily Record: “One of Leon’s friends told me he had been doing the challenge on Facetime with them after seeing it on TikTok.
“My Leon thought he would be the one to try it first. Him and his friends probably thought it was a laugh and a joke.
“One of the kids who he was on Facetime with told me what he had done.
“She said they thought they would wake up. But Leon didn’t come back around. It went horribly wrong.”
“I had heard of this challenge, because of what happened to Archie Battersbee,” Lauryn added.
“But you just don’t expect your own child to do it. Please warn them, these online challenges aren’t worth their lives.
“I went on TikTok and wrote out words similar to blackout challenge. The amount of video results that came up on it is ridiculous.”
While Archie’s mum Hollie Dance told the Mirror: “The social media companies don’t do enough to stop harmful content online.
“It’s out there and people are grooming our children to do these challenges, it’s disgusting.
“The people – they’re often adults, not children – who are demonstrating these challenges are sick.”
How should I report the challenge?
Talking to your youngsters is an important step in educating them on the dangers of such trends, and communication is key.
TikTok also says that if you spot an offending video on its service, you should report it in the hope it will stop it spreading online.
Any user concerned by something they see can click the white arrow on the right-hand side of the video, then hit "Report".
There you can then select the category "Suicide, Self-harm and Dangerous Acts".
If you see anybody taking part in the challenge, or if anyone encourages you to take part, please report the account immediately and do not reply.