What Is the TikTok Blackout Challenge? Choking Trend Linked to Children's Deaths

A TikTok trend called the "blackoutchallenge," which has been linked to death and serious injury, has increased in popularity over recent days according to Google Search trends.

The challenge encourages users of the app, who are often children, to hold their breath or asphyxiate until they lose consciousness. This may involve the use of household items.

In February, such a challenge was linked to the death of a 10-year-old girl from Italy, who had allegedly taken part in the challenge. She was found in the family bathroom by her younger sister with her cellphone and later died in hospital.

It prompted Italian authorities to temporarily suspend users' access to the app if they could not verify their age.

Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy from Colorado was hospitalized in critical condition after reportedly participating in the game.

He was found by his brother several minutes after he had attempted the challenge, according to news channel Denver7. He remains in hospital, the news channel reported March 30.

The boy's father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, told Denver7: "I want others to see what I'm going through, learn for their children."

Seattle news outlet KIRO-7 reported videos encouraging fainting have been circulating on social media "for several years."

It reports the videos have gone by other names, including "Passout Challenge," or "Speed Dreaming."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report in February 2008 warning about a "choking game" in which young people were participating, which it said was defined by "self-strangulation or strangulation by another person."

Based on media reports, the CDC identified 82 probable choking game deaths among people aged between six and 19 between the years of 1995 and 2007.

In a statement to Newsweek, TikTok said it blocks hashtags or certain searches "to discourage people from participating in or sharing potentially dangerous content," and said it removes content that "glorifies dangerous behavior" to prevent it from trending.

Newsweek confirmed that a search for "blackoutchallenge" on TikTok in the U.K. prompts a "no results found" result, along with the statement: "This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines," along with a link to community guidelines.

Newsweek found a U.K. TikTok search for "speed dreaming" yielded no results because of community guidelines—"passout challenge" did show results, but they appeared to be about mental health awareness and also came with a link to support resources such as Samaritans.

TikTok logo on phone screen
The TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. The app is widely used by young people. Drew Angerer/Getty