Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
A dangerous trend from years past is making a deadly comeback with some young TikTok users—and it’s already claimed the lives of at least three kids in the U.S. this year alone.
It’s called the Blackout Challenge, a viral act that involves users choking themselves until they pass out.
On Monday, local law enforcement in Bethany, Oklahoma found a 12-year-old boy in his apartment, not breathing and unresponsive with marks around his neck. The boy was rushed to University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, but it was too late: he died the following morning.
Police say they believe that he was taking part in the challenge.
“It all basically comes down to is where a kid tries to asphyxiate themselves to the point of unconsciousness, and then once they start to gain their consciousness back is when they get a euphoria-like feeling," Bethany Police Department official Angelo Orefice told WMUR about the Blackout Challenge.
The young boy from Oklahoma is not the only life that has been allegedly lost because of the trend. In June, the family of a 9-year-old in Memphis discovered their son unresponsive in his closet with a belt around his neck after they said he took part in the challenge. In March, the twin brother of a 12-year-old in Aurora, Colorado found his sibling passed out on his bathroom floor after he attempted the challenge. After 19 days on life support, the pre-teen died of his injuries. Back in January, a young girl in Italy died after taking part in the challenge, prompting the country to block TikTok users under the age of 13.
“Now more than ever due to the lockdowns, kids are bored and looking to occupy their time. Social media is a very influential part of a child’s life and should be heavily scrutinized by parents,” a Bethany police department spokesperson said in the news release.
TikTok did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The Blackout Challenge is far from anything new. The deadly game has taken several names over the years including “the choking game,” “flatliner,” and “California high,” according to GASP, a national organization founded in 2005 dedicated entirely to building awareness about it. It’s been surprisingly pervasive over the years, dating as far back as the 1930s, the organization told the Washington Post in 2015. Between 1995 and 2007, as many as 82 children and teens between the ages of 6 and 19 have died playing the game, according to a 2010 report by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
The #BlackoutChallenge is far from the only dangerous challenge to become popular on social media platforms in recent years. The 2018 fire challenge, which involves covering oneself in a flammable liquid and setting yourself on fire, has left dozens of young social media users injured, some as recently as this summer. In 2018, the #TidePodChallenge, which saw kids, teens and even some adults taking a bite out of the popular laundry detergent item, became a popular trend and meme despite the danger of poisoning its participants.