Police point to social media challenge in Oklahoma boy’s death


BETHANY, Okla. (KFOR) – A 12 year-old boy is dead in Bethany. Police say strangulation marks on his neck don’t point to a murder or a suicide, instead, they say a TikTok challenge went tragically wrong.

Police say kids have been spending a lot of time alone, bored, thanks to the pandemic. They say it’s contributing to preteens taking part in a social media challenge that can be deadly.

“His family is devastated, of course, over something, just nonsense, that happened,” said Lt. Angelo Orefice of the Bethany Police Department.

Police say they found the 12-year-old boy dead in the breezeway of Western Oaks apartment complex in Bethany just after midnight. They say there were marks on his neck.

“This was not a suicide attempt, but just an accident based on a possible Tik Tok challenge,” said Orefice.

The challenge Orefice is talking about goes by different names – Blackout Challenge, Pass Out Challenge, Speed Dreaming, The Fainting Game, among others.

“Kids asphyxiating themselves – either choking themselves out by hand or using some sort of a ligature like a rope or a belt or something like that – just so they can get the euphoria when they wake up,” said Orefice.

Medical experts warn the challenge is dangerous even if it doesn’t end in death.

“Time is brain cells, so any time you are without either oxygen or blood supply is time you are risking permanent damage to part of your brain,” said Dr. Melinda Cail, a physician.

But whatever name it goes by, the dangerous deed is not new. From 1995 to 2007, the CDC reported 82 people dying from the act.

Just this year, a 12 year old in Colorado and an 8th grader in Massachusetts died doing the blackout challenge.

“The big thing on social media is to get the most views as possible, whatever the risk, whatever the cost, unfortunately,” said Patrick Allmond, a cyber expert with Focus Digital.

Computer experts say social media platforms like TikTok are very popular with preteens. They say although most challenges are harmless, there are those that can be dangerous, even deadly.

“The internet challenges that are out there are so prevalent, it’s hard for kids to escape that. Unless they have parental intervention, it’s not gunna happen,” said Orefice.

Police are urging parents to make sure they are checking their kids social media history and talk to their kids about what they do online.

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