A mother is suing social media app, TikTok after her daughter died while trying a viral challenge called ‘blackout challenge’ that she found on the app.
The Pennsylvania mother, Tawainna Anderson wants to spread awareness for parents to monitor their children’s favorite online platforms following the death of her daughter, 10-year-old Nylah Anderson.
Nylah was in her bedroom when she attempted the “Blackout Challenge,” a stunt where participants on TikTok are challenged to hold their breath until they passed out.
Tawainna says her daughter choked herself to death after participating in the dangerous challenge and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance.
In the lawsuit, Tawainna said her daughter participated in a ‘blackout challenge’ after it appeared on her ‘For You’ page in December.
The ‘blackout challenge’ encourages users to try and hold their breath until they pass out, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Thursday.
In December 2021, Anderson rushed her daughter to the hospital after finding her unresponsive. Nylah spent nearly a week in a pediatric intensive care unit before she died from her injuries, the lawsuit said.
The deceased mum accused TikTok of having a ‘defective design,’ and that the company’s algorithms are exposing young children to dangerous ideas.
The lawsuit said:
“The viral and deadly TikTok Blackout Challenge was thrust in front of Nylah on her TikTok For You Page … as a result of TikTok’s algorithm.
The TikTok Defendants’ algorithm determined that the deadly Blackout Challenge was well-tailored and likely to be of interest to 10-year-old Nylah Anderson, and she died as a result.”
The lawsuit describes Nylah as an ‘active, happy, healthy and incredibly intelligent child’ who spoke three languages by the time she turned 10.
At the time of her death, her mother told ABC13, ‘She was a butterfly, she was everything, she was a happy child.’ She said:
“It’s a pain that don’t go away–it’s in your stomach, it’s at the top of your throat and I’m so hurt. Make sure you check your kids’ phones. You never know what you might find on their phones. You wouldn’t think 10-year-olds would try this. They’re trying because they’re kids and they don’t know better.”
TikTok reacting to the mum’s lawsuit said in its statement that the ‘disturbing challenge’ long predates their platform, and had never been a ‘TikTok trend.’ The company said in the statement:
“We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss.”
This is not the first child dying from the challenge. According to NBC 5, another child, a 12-year-old boy in Colorado, also died after attempting the ‘blackout challenge.
Joshua Haileyesus died in April of 2021 after his twin brother found him passed out in the bathroom. He was taken off life support after 19 days.
Associate Divison Chief of Nemours’ Pediatric Critical Care, Dr. Mindy Dickerman warned that the Blackout Challenge can result in strangulation that can cause cardiac arrest and significant organ damage, including brain damage.