Authorities are raising the alarm after a 12-year-old Argentinian girl lost her life after attempting a deadly “choking challenge” made popular by the controversial short-video streaming app TikTok.
The TikTok choking challenge, also called the “pass-out challenge” and the “blackout challenge” encourages people to hold their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen. Some forms of the challenge, like in the case of this young girl, encourages users to use ropes or other restrictive items to make themselves lose consciousness.
Twelve-year-old Milagros Soto was found deceased with a rope around her neck by her father when he returned home from work on Jan. 13, according to an autopsy report obtained by Argentinian media outlet El Litoral.
Soto’s aunt, Laura Luque, told Jam Press that the family was “inconsolable [because] we gave her so much love.”
Reports indicate that Soto was livestreaming the challenge to school mates at the time of her death and that she had tried the challenge two times before but failed to remove the rope on her third attempt, Jam Press reported.
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Soto’s aunt said her niece was often bullied and received a prompt to attempt the challenge via a WhatsApp message. “I believe someone encouraged her to do it,” she said, adding that, “She suffered a lot with bullying.”
According to the Daily Beast, the deadly challenge has claimed the lives of at least 20 children since mid-2021.
Experts are warning that the viral trend can result in fainting, seizures and even brain damage,
TikTok is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit after two California teens died of hanging after watching videos of the challenge on the social media platform. The company, owned by Chinese tech giant Bytedance, has denied any wrongdoing, arguing that “the ongoing issue, saying ‘choking game’ injuries from young people long predate the blackout challenge,” Fox News Reported.
TikTok is encouraging users to flag videos of anybody engaging in the challenge by reporting the video via its app.
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Advice for parents
Stephanie Lowe, Family Editor at Goodto.com wrote, “The scary thing about this challenge is its persistence in the social media world. It first started 14 years ago in 2008, and keeps cropping up for fresh influential eyes to see. I think the main thing for parents to do is talk openly about it and discuss it in a neutral way. Kids listen more to conversations happening around them, so discuss it openly with others in front of them.”
Last year, a young British boy, Archie Battersbee, lost his life to the challenge, making headlines across the globe.
In April, 2022 Battersbee, from Southend, Essex, was found unconscious by his mother with a dressing gown cord wrapped around his neck. His mother performed CPR and called for paramedics who attended and found the boy had suffered cardiac arrest. It’s believed that Battersbee suffered brain damage during his cardiac arrest, due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
He was the subject of numerous court hearings between April and August 2022, where lawyers argued over whether or not to remove the boy from life support after he was found to have suffered brain stem death. The courts ruled against the boy’s parents and removed the young boy from life support.
According to a study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the viral, deadly trend has led to over 80 deaths in the past and there are many signs that could indicate that a child is attempting the challenge.
These signs include bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, severe headaches, disorientation after spending time alone, ropes, scarves and other items tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs and an unexplained presence of things like dog leashes, choke collars and bungee cords.
Parenting expert Kirsty Ketley says talking to your children about the challenge in conjunction with peer pressure is the best approach.
Writing for Goodto.com Ketley said, “For tweens and teens this is hugely important as they are figuring out who they are and gaining more independence from their parents. It;s important that parents remind their kids to take everything they see on social media with a pinch of salt and to make sure that their child feels able to chat with them about what they are seeing, so keep the lines of communication open.”
“Archie Battersbee’s tragic story is a great starting point when chatting with your kids about this challenge and others like it. Hearing about the real life repercussions can be enough for most kids to think about what they are seeing on social media and what not to follow,” she added.