Blackout Challenge videos: what is the social media and TikTok trend - and what happened to Archie Battersbee?

Battersbee is thought to have attempted the online ligature challenge which left him ‘brain-stem dead’ after accident

After a High Court judge ruled he was legally dead, the "devastated" mother of a 12-year-old boy who was at the centre of a life-support treatment battle says relatives plan to appeal.

Archie Battersbee was diagnosed as "brain-stem dead" by doctors at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, who recommended that Archie's life support be turned off and that he be taken off of a ventilator.

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Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, from Southend, Essex, say Archie's heart is still beating and that treatment should continue.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot concluded on 13 June that Archie was dead, and that doctors could legally stop treating him after he suffered brain damage in an incident at his home in April.

Ms Dance said she found Archie unconscious on 7 April with a ‘ligature’ around his head, and believes he was participating in an online challenge.

It’s been speculated that thechallenge may have been the so-called ‘Blackout Challenge’.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is the Blackout Challenge?

TikTok and other social media platforms are a melting pot of trends, challenges and crazes.

As users vie to be the next to be plucked from obscurity and thrust into stardom via viral video fame, some are resorting to increasingly daft stunts to capture people’s attention.

The latest is the ‘Blackout Challenge’, a gauntlet thrown down that encourages people to hyperventilate until they pass out - all for social media likes.

We won’t give out the specifics of how users achieve their ‘blackouts’ (besides, there are a few different methods), but the game essentially involves intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain.

There’s a bit more to it than simply holding one’s breath - the nervous system would automatically kick in and force you to take a breath, making this nearly impossible - and the challenge 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 - this writer remembers performing similar feats on the school playground some 20 years ago, only then there was no TikTok around to capture it - 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?

So many of these ‘dangerous’ trends spring up on TikTok that it’s hard to envy whoever fronts their PR department.

But 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.”

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.