Fire service rescue five teenagers from toddler swings amid 'irresponsible' TikTok trend

Don't waste our time - firefighters plea with public after a worrying rise in incidents where teenagers have become trapped in baby swings
The trend to squeeze into a toddler swing and then try to get out has prompted a huge rise in 999 calls and is wasting emergency services timeThe trend to squeeze into a toddler swing and then try to get out has prompted a huge rise in 999 calls and is wasting emergency services time
The trend to squeeze into a toddler swing and then try to get out has prompted a huge rise in 999 calls and is wasting emergency services time

Firefighters have slammed an ‘irresponsible’ TikTok trend after a spike in teenagers being rescued from toddler swings in Sunderland.

Frustrated Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) representatives have called on communities to not waste their time and resources after a rise in reports of people getting stuck in children’s swings. Brigade statistics state they have responded to 35 incidents of people being stuck in such swings in the seven months since April 2023.

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That is already more than double the 14 incidents seen in the entire 12 months dating back to March 2022. Tyne and Wear fire bosses are concerned the rise in incidents is down to the re-emergence of a TikTok trend, with other services across the UK reporting similar worries in recent years.

The social media viral challenge had seen older children, and young adults, attempting to force themselves into toddler swing sets. They are then filmed trying to get out of the swing but, on the occasions they are unable to, they are left with no choice but to call the fire service.

It is believed the craze first emerged in 2021 and during that year TWFRS recorded 29 rescues from toddler swing sets. Station manager Jonathan Ramanayake, from the service’s prevention and education department, said the rescues are “no laughing matter.”

He added: “Young people may find it funny that the fire service is responding to these type of incidents but it is a serious waste of emergency service resources. If our crews are already in attendance at an incident of this nature, and a genuine life-at-risk emergency occurs, their response will be delayed.

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“Children as old as 15 have been rescued in these incidents and all of those rescued are old enough to know their behaviour is irresponsible.”

Of the 35 incidents recorded to date in 2023/24, five have been logged in Sunderland, ten each in Newcastle and North Tyneside, while there have been seven in South Tyneside, and three in Gateshead. Fire services bosses added the incidents are quite vastly spread across different parks and play areas in the region.

Sunderland is the only area which has seen a decrease compared to the figures for the 12-month period from March 2022, where nine were recorded, while all other areas had seen two or under of such calls during 2022/23. In total, there have been 91 incidents of people being stuck in swings since the start of 2020/21 across the Tyne and Wear area, with Sunderland seeing the highest number, with 29, and South Tyneside the lowest, with 11.

Station manager Ramanayake continued: “In a fire or rescue every second counts and we would ask these young people if 30 seconds of fame on social media is worth a life. Would they be comfortable knowing the fire service was delayed in getting to a fire at their home because their friend was stuck in a swing set?

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“Not only does it hinder our response, but it robs a community of a swing set if we need to remove the swing to free the trapped individual. That is simply not fair.”

He added they regularly attend schools to deliver safety talks and this advice will feature in those lessons, and they would also ask parents and guardians to pass on such messages. Those rescued have been aged between nine and 15 years old and none of those involved suffered any injuries.

Fire service bosses added in the majority of cases the children were freed from the swing set without the need to damage the swings, by lifting the child out of the swing. The warnings come after the issue was raised at the latest meeting of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority’s policy and performance committee earlier this month (November 13).

Louise Clarkson, director of corporate services, cited the TikTok trend as a reason for the 88 per cent rise in incidents involving the “removal of people from objects” between April and the end of September this year compared to 2022, which increased from 33 to 62. She added: “It’s unfathomable in my opinion.”

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