TikTok Blackout Challenge: What Parents Need to Know

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January 5, 2023

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Table of Contents

The "Blackout Challenge” has been around in various forms offline for many years but made the move to TikTok with devastating effects for young participants (Source: The Daily Beast). Parents and educators can talk to their students about this challenge and raise awareness of the lethal consequences of participating in it.

In this resource, parents and educators will learn:

  1. What is the TikTok Blackout Challenge
  2. Examples from the news around the country
  3. What can parents and educators do

Parent & educator video lesson

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What you’ll learn in this video lesson

  1. What is the TikTok Blackout Challenge
  2. Examples from the news
  3. What can parents and educators do?

What is the TikTok Blackout Challenge? 

  • This disturbing challenge involves teens choking themselves or holding their breath until they pass out and share cellphone videos of themselves doing this on their social media accounts 
  • Participants of this TikTok challenge are encouraged to use objects such as “belts, purse strings, or anything similar until passing out” (Source: The Verge
  • This TikTok trend is unique from many others in that it did not start on TikTok. It has actually been around since about 2008 but recently regained popularity on TikTok (Source: People)  
  • A TikTok spokesperson stated that the company has blocked hashtags related to the challenge to prevent more people from participating in them due to their dangerous nature, but videos talking about it and showing it can still appear in users' feeds or on other social media video-sharing services (Source: Newsweek)
  • Several lawsuits have been filed by parents whose children have passed away as a result of this strangulation challenge 

Examples of the TikTok Blackout Challenge in the news 

Parents sue TikTok, saying children died after viewing 'Blackout Challenge"
Parents sue TikTok
The parents of two girls who said their children died as a result of a “blackout challenge” on TikTok are suing the company, claiming its algorithm intentionally served the children dangerous content that led to their deaths. - The New York Times
Wrongful death lawsuit filed against TikTok after Temple girl dies while participating in 'Blackout Challenge'
The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC) has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the death of Lalani Erika Walton, 8, of Temple, Texas, who allegedly died of self-strangulation while participating in TikTok’s Blackout Challenge…

Lalani had reportedly just returned from a road trip with her stepmother … and ‘had been amusing herself by watching TikTok videos on her device’...Lalani’s stepmother reportedly told Lalani to clean up her room while she rested from the long drive…[The stepmother then]  walked in [her room] and found Lalani hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck…Lalani had laid out her bathing suit in anticipation of going swimming..." - KWTX 10, Central Texas

What can parents & educators do about the deadly blackout challenge?  

  • Talk with your students about what they are seeing on social media, especially if they have come across these types of videos, and discuss what online challenges they want to participate in using their social media platform
  • Stay aware that dangerous viral challenges often come and go and continue talking about it with your students, even if they say it is not showing in the feed of their favorite app
  • Some warning signs that students may be creating blackout challenge videos include: teens talking about the “pass out challenge,” “choking challenge,” "choking game," or “space monkey”, how long they can hold their breath, or if they have bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, severe headaches, disorientation after being alone, or you find objects such as ropes, belts, dog leashes, and bungee cords found where they are not expected or found tied in knots (Source: CDC
  • Remain vigilant about what is on your kids' phones and what they are posting on the popular app and ask them to talk with you if they come across a social media challenge that makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Call 911 immediately if someone is found unconscious or not responsive after attempting this disturbing challenge
  • Help students find safer, yet still fun challenges to participate in on TikTok, Instagram, or other social media platforms
  • To learn more about why students are participating in social media challenges read our resource, Social Media Challenges: What Students, Parents, & Educators Need to Know

Key terms/slang about the TikTok Blackout Challenge

  • Choking game
  • Choking challenge
  • Space monkey
  • Pass out challenge
  • Asphyxiation game

Additional resources

Social Media Challenges: What Students, Parents & Educators Need to Know

Get updates twice a week to learn the latest trends in social media (like dangerous social media challenges)

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or call 911 immediately. If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text HOME to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Conclusion 

If your student or their friends are spending time on TikTok, or any social media platform, be aware that they may have been exposed to the deadly Blackout Challenge. Look for warning signs that they may be participating in the challenge alone or with friends. This challenge can have devastating consequences so it is important to educate students about it so they can avoid participating in it. 


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