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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andy Gregory

Archie Battersbee’s mother wants coroner to look at whether TikTok contributed to his death

Carl Court/Getty Images

The mother of Archie Battersbee has asked a coroner to investigate whether social media app TikTok played a role in her 12-year-old son’s death.

Archie died on 6 August after his life-support machine was turned off, following a gruelling legal battle between his parents and Barts Health NHS Trust, which argued that his treatment should be withdrawn as it was “very likely” that he was brain-stem dead.

The child had been admitted to hospital four months earlier after he was found unconscious by his mother Hollie Dance at her home in Southend with a ligature around his neck, prompting her to believe he had been taking part in a dangerous online challenge.

An inquest is set to take place in February at Essex Coroner’s Court and, ahead of a review hearing this week, it was reported that Ms Dance’s lawyers have asked the coroner to explore whether social media played a role.

Lawyers for Archie’s mother argue that the matter should be properly investigated in order to potentially avoid future deaths, and reportedly want Essex Police to hand over Archie’s electronic devices for examination.

Ms Dance wants TikTok to be made an interested party in the inquest, according to The Guardian – a development which could see the social media company called to give evidence.

“Archie had the TikTok app. In the last few weeks [before his injury] he kept making out he was dizzy, that he could make himself pass out,” his mother, aged 47, told the newspaper on Monday.

“He’d never caused me any alarm by putting anything around his neck or anything like that so this was a very new thing. For him to all of a sudden start that at the age of 12 years old, he’s seen it somewhere and the only thing I can think of is TikTok.”

The Order of Service before the funeral of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee at St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

In submissions to the coroner, Ms Dance’s lawyers – from the firm Simpson Millar – write that Archie’s mother believes he was “influenced, persuaded or peer-pressured online” into taking part in what is known as the “blackout challenge”.

They argue that, if Ms Dance’s “fears are evidenced” and Archie “was mortally injured as a result of the accessibility on platforms such as TikTok of such challenges, or messages from influencers about the same, including ‘dares’”, then “such matters properly fall to be investigated as part of the wider public interest and as a means of perhaps avoiding future deaths”.

Calling for evidence and publicly reviewing it “would be proportionate to the risk and/or effect of the same tragic circumstances being visited on any household in the jurisdiction with children of tender years who have access to the internet and in particular TikTok”, states the submission seen by The Guardian.

It also mentions a 2008 report by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that at least 82 children had died as a result of the “challenge”, which long pre-dates TikTok but is alleged to have become popular on the platform – a charge the company is understood to reject.

TikTok declined to comment when approached by The Independent.

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