What is the Blackout Challenge on TikTok? Parents warned over fatal online trend

TikTok has been criticised over the dangerous challenge

A close up of a phone screen showing the TikTok logo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Parents are being warned about the new Blackout Challenge on TikTok that is on the rise among children and teenagers. Here's everything you need to know and how to talk to your children about it.

The social media platform can be a useful place to learn the jean sizing hack or delicious recipes, but the platform also has a dark side - leading one US state to ban TikTok. You might have heard of the controversial character and frankly misogynistic Andrew Tate, but here's another worrying trend you should know about: the Blackout Challenge. 

The Blackout Challenge is an online trend that is proving to be dangerous, if not fatal, after it reportedly claimed the lives of four youngsters so far this year and is thought to be responsible for the devastating Archie Battersbee story. Stephanie Lowe, our Family Editor at Goodto.com tells us; "The scary thing about this challenge is its persistence in the social media world. It first started 14 years ago in 2008, and keeps cropping up for fresh influential eyes to see. I think the main thing for parents to do is to talk openly about it and discuss it in a neutral way. Kids listen more to conversations happening around them, so discuss it openly with others in front of them."

What is the Blackout Challenge on TikTok?

The Blackout Challenge on TikTok is where users are encouraged to hold their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen. It can also be referred to as the "choking challenge" or the "pass-out challenge".

Archie Battersbee, the 12-year-old boy who sustained serious brain injury from his attempt, is just one of many children for whom the challenge has had devastating consequences on them and their families. According to PEOPLE, four children under the age of 12 have already died after attempting to copy the challenge.

It is thought that youngsters are keen to try the challenge as it involves intentionally trying to choke oneself or another in an effort to obtain a brief euphoric state or "high". But death or serious injury can result if strangulation is prolonged.

When did the Blackout Challenge start?

The Blackout Challenge is not as new as you may think - it's actually started back in 2008 as a choking game but it's now doing the rounds on TikTok and therefore reaching an audience in a different mode.

Experts are warning young users not to try the trend, which has led to over 80 deaths in the past, per the study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A TikTok spokesperson told PEOPLE that "this disturbing 'challenge,' which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend".

"We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found," they added.

TikTok, What is the Blackout Challenge on TikTok?

Credit: Getty Images

Who is the Blackout Challenge creator?

It is not known who created Blackout Challenge, but WLWT reported on a teacher allowing the game to go around a school with pupils taking part and in 2016 a report circulated that warned about the choking game making a return to schoolyards via Youtube.

But any videos that have since been posted in TikTok of users trying to attempted the challenge has been blocked by TikTok, as those looking to watch the horrific challenge take place by searching Blackout Challenge receives a notice that the term has been banned for violating guidelines.

Signs that a child may be attempting the TikTok Blackout Challenge

  • Discussion of the game – including other terms used for it, such as "pass–out game" or "space monkey"
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Marks on the neck
  • Severe headaches
  • Disorientation after spending time alone
  • Ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor
  • Unexplained presence of things like dog leashes, choke collars and bungee cords

How to talk to your kids about the blackout challenge

According to parenting expert Kirsty Ketley, talking to your children about peer pressure and what they see online without judgement is key to helping them work out what is and isn't safe.

She says "For tweens and teens this is hugely important as they are figuring out who they are and gaining more independence from their parents. It's important that parents remind their kids to take everything they see on social media with a pinch of salt and to make sure that their child feels able to chat with them about what they are seeing, so keep the lines of communication open." 

She adds: "Archie Battersbee's tragic story is a great starting point when chatting with your kids about this challenge and others like it. Hearing about the real life repercussions can be enough for most kids to think about what they are seeing on social media and what not to follow."

If you've been affected by this story, or whatever you're going through, you can call Samaritans free any time, from any phone on 116 123.  

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Headshot of parenting expert Kirsty Ketley
Kirsty Ketley

Kirsty is a qualified Early Years Practitioner with a wealth of knowledge and experience from over 20 years working with children from birth to the teenage years.

Using her vast experience as a professional as well as her personal experience as a parent to two children, Kirsty offers a parent consultation service, providing support, reassurance, help and advice on all areas of parenting.

Selina Maycock
Senior Entertainment Writer

Selina is currently a Senior Entertainment Writer for Goodto.com, formerly Senior Entertainment writer for Woman&Home, and My Imperfect Life and has more than 16 years of experience in newspapers, magazines and online. She currently writes a mix of Entertainment news - including celebrity births, weddings and reality show line-ups including Strictly, Dancing On Ice and The Great British Bake Off, reporting the the latest news about the Royal kids Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet as well as Family news stories from baby names to store closures and product recall warnings. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories. 

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