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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Zoe Tidman

Archie Battersbee’s mother criticises ‘lack of action’ over online challenge that put son in coma

Hollie Dance/PA

The mother of a 12-year-old boy brain-damaged in an alleged online challenge has accused social media companies of not doing enough to prevent harmful content online.

Hollie Dance has been interviewed for the first time since Archie Battersbee died shortly after his life support was switched off earlier this month.

This came after months of legal battles over his care, which resulted in doctors being given permission to stop treating Archie, who they said was brain-stem dead, despite his parents wanting treatment to continue.

Hollie Dance attending a vigil for her son after he passed away (PA Wire)

Archie was found unconscious at his home in Essex in April in an incident his mother believes may have been linked to an online challenge.

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She claims more than 80 other children have died from taking part in the “blackout challenge” – a dare that encourages people to hold their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen.

“The social media companies don’t do enough to stop harmful content online,” Ms Dance told The Mirror.

“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.

“The police and the government need to work together to stop this.”

Archie was left brain-damaged after an incident at home in April (PA Media)

There have been a number of reports around the world of children who have died after taking part in the blackout challenge, including a 12-year-old boy from Colorado in the US and a 10-year-old girl from Palermo in Italy last year.

Social media platform TikTok was also sued in May by the family of Nylah Anderson, a 10-year-old girl who died in the US last December after reportedly attempting the challenge.

Following Nylah’s death, a spokesperson for TikTok told People magazine: “This disturbing ‘challenge’, which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend. We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found.”

Ms Dance told The Mirror she did not want anyone else to suffer like her son and family, saying protecting children was the legacy she wanted for Archie.

It comes as the grieving mother said she also planned to lobby the government to seek a change in the law on decisions over ending life-support treatment.

Ms Dance says she wants her son’s legacy to be saving others from similar pain (Hollie Dance/PA)

Ms Dance has written to health secretary Steve Barclay, asking for a meeting to discuss the implications of her son’s case.

She says she wants a public inquiry into the “operation of this system” and a change in the law.

Ms Dance, who held out hope that her son would recover, said she felt “backed into a corner” by the British legal system.

Ms Dance took her fight to keep Archie on life support to the courts (PA)

Her family felt “stripped” of rights, she said, after Barts NHS Health Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital which cared for Archie, took the case to court.

The Court of Appeal backed a High Court ruling that stopped the family from moving Archie to a hospice to die.

“Change is needed,” she told the BBC on Thursday. “As if it’s not a traumatic time enough, you’re faced with fighting the system… I wasn’t prepared to do that.

“We were backed into a corner. It was the hospital that took us to court, not the other way round.

“It was hard, stressful and unnecessary, we need change.”

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