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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lola Christina Alao

What is the TikTok blackout challenge? Leon Brown’s mother issues warning after son dies doing challenge

“A challenge is not worth your life, a few likes on social media is not worth your life,” says Leon Brown’s mother

(Picture: Getty Images)

Also referred to as the "pass-out challenge" or "choking challenge", the blackout challenge has been trending in recent years, following the deaths of many children who have taken part.

Two families filed a lawsuit against TikTok over the deaths of their children. Lalani Erika Renee Walton, an eight-year-old girl from Texas, and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, a nine-year-old girl from Milwaukee, both died in 2021 after attempting the challenge, according to the lawsuit. They believe the popular social-media platform is at fault, and that the algorithm intentionally and repeatedly motivated their children to participate in the challenge.

The trend is being discussed widely in the UK, following 14-year-old Leon Brown’s death after attempting the challenge. Lauryn Keating said she found her son unresponsive in his room at their home in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, on August 25. She later learned that the challenge caused her son to have a brain injury, leading to his death.

The 12-year-old died after months of legal battles concluded in a judge ruling that doctors were allowed to lawfully end life-support care for Leon despite his family’s objections.

After hearing that Leon had died as a result of the challenge, Ms Keating took to Facebook to warn that any child taking part in the trend risked unintentionally killing themselves.

In a post, she said: “I need every teenager and every parent to see this and understand the dangers of these Tiktok challenges.

“A challenge is not worth your life, a few likes on social media is not worth your life.

“My son (I’m sure all his friends will agree) was the class clown, he was happy, he was kind, he loved to make everybody laugh but, most importantly, he didn’t mean to die.

“No parent should have to see what I have seen, no parent should be going through what I am, all because of some stupid trend. Even if this saves one child’s life, it’s worth sharing.”

Ms Keating told Scotland’s Daily Record that one of her son’s friends said he saw Leon take the challenge on Facetime.

She told the paper: “One of Leon’s friends told me he had been doing the challenge on Facetime with them after seeing it on TikTok.

“My Leon thought he would be the one to try it first. Him and his friends probably thought it was a laugh and a joke.

“One of the kids who he was on Facetime with told me what he had done. She said they thought they would wake up. But Leon didn’t come back around. It went horribly wrong.”

She added: “I went on TikTok and wrote out words similar to blackout challenge. The amount of video results that came up on it is ridiculous.”

But what is the viral TikTok blackout challenge? Here is everything you need to know.

What is the viral TikTok blackout challenge?

The blackout challenge encourages people to film themselves hyperventilating until they pass out for social media.

The game essentially involves intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain, which has been labelled as dangerous by professionals.

While the blackouts seen in the majority of videos may all appear to be quickly recovered from, there is also a risk of lasting damage.

In fact, any activity that deprives the brain of oxygen has the potential to cause moderate to severe brain-cell death, leading to permanent loss of neurological function, lifelong mental disability or, as we have seen, even death.

Have TikTok commented on the viral blackout challenge?

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Leon Brown’s family during this incredibly difficult time,” a TikTok spokesperson said after Leon’s death.

“The safety of our community is our priority and we take any claim about a dangerous challenge very seriously. Content of this nature is prohibited on our platform and would be removed if found.”

Back in early 2021, when the trend was still gaining traction, TikTok said: “We do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous behaviour that might lead to injury, and our teams work diligently to identify and remove content that violates our policies.”

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