What is this alert about?

This safeguarding blog contains a TikTok alert for your immediate attention.

We have been alerted to reports of the tragic death of a 10-year-old girl in Italy. It has been reported that she died after taking part in the so-called ‘blackout’ or ‘choke challenge’ on the video-sharing platform TikTok.

We’re going to look at:

  1. What we know so far
  2. What our experts have found
  3. Provide you with practical tips and resources to support you

TikTok ‘Choke Challenge’ – what we know so far

The ‘choke challenge’ is not new, nor has it actually gone viral (yet), so pause, it’s really important to stay calm. Make sure you read this blog to the end to understand what has happened and what you can do to help the children in your care.

  • A young female has died in Italy after allegedly taking part in what is reported to have been a TikTok challenge – often referred to as the ‘choke’ or ‘blackout’ challenge.

  • The challenge is about cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain to induce a ‘black out’ – medics have previously warned of the dangers of this practice which is unsafe.
  • Reports state that prosecutors are now investigating the circumstances of the girl’s death after the girl’s parents told the Italian press that another daughter explained that her sister “was playing the blackout game”.
  • The story has now started to gain traction around global media outlets (some stories relating to this type of activity go back several years).
  • We know from previous press coverage of challenges that these reports can cause anxiety for parents, carers and safeguarding professionals.

What have our experts found?

  • From scanning TikTok, we’ve found no evidence that this ‘challenge’ has gone viral.
  • Italian media has covered the death of the girl widely, and therefore, there is potential for further media attention that may increase awareness and trigger renewed interest in the challenge.

  • Be aware, there are existing hashtags and videos that show mock choking practices.
  • While children are not said to be participating in this challenge in large numbers, we have concerns of the potential risk to children who may participate.
  • We know from our own UK survey that during the first week of the initial national lockdown that there was a 17% increase in live streaming by 7-17-year-olds as they attempted to engage and build an online audience.

So, what advice can you give a child if they come across something scary or disturbing online? Tell them to:

Stop – what they’re doing and turn off their screen or shut down their device

Breathe – pause and stay calm

Think – try not to focus on what they saw in great detail, and remind themselves that there is no immediate danger to them and that they are safe

Talk – they should find a trusted adult to talk to about what they’ve seen and how they feel

Our Advice

It’s unlikely that the children in your care will have seen this content. Therefore, our advice is to sensitively check in with them. Do this by having an open conversation but do not directly mention the challenge by name.

Suggest that you’ve heard there is some disturbing content being circulated in an online challenge and ask if they’ve heard of anything like that?

If during the conversation they talk to you about challenges it’s a good idea to visit our online safety centre to understand how to configure safety settings on the platforms they use.

This is the best way to open an indirect conversation that enables the child to talk to you about any concerns without inciting them or their friends to seek out the actual content.

Ensure that children and young people in your care know who they can talk to if they come across something that upsets or distresses them online.

Further Support and Resources

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