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Pennsylvania Girl Dies Due To TikTok Challenge: How To Keep Your Children Safe From Social Media Dangers

10-year-old Neela Anderson spoke three languages ​​and was an athletic, bright and cheerful girl. In early December, her mother, Tavina Anderson, went to check on her daughter and found her unconscious. TODAY.

Photo: Shutterstock

When Neela spent the next few days in the pediatric intensive care unit, her family discovered that she had accidentally hurt herself while attempting the blackout challenge, a dangerous challenge in which people restrict their breathing until they faint.

A few days after arriving at the hospital, Neela passed away.

“We believe it was an accident and we know she viewed these videos on social media,” said Elizabeth Wood, a licensed clinical social worker at Nemours Children's Hospital, Delaware, where Neela was treated.

“Neela’s mom — with great courage — spoke of her tragedy so that everyone else would know her daughter’s story, so that no other parents, no other mother, would go through what she was going through,” Wood said.

The blackout challenge is also sometimes referred to as the choking game or the fainting game. It has been around for many years, but sometimes reappears on social media.

“There are different variations on this, but the idea is that the person stops the flow of oxygen,” explained Wood. "People might think they can get some kind of a kick out of it."

In April, a 12-year-old boy from Colorado died of this challenge.

On the subject: Dozens of teenagers in several states of America arrested for participating in the TikTok challenge: what they've done

Often people do this in the presence of someone, so that someone can help bring them to their senses.

“They think this person can save you, but that doesn't always work,” Wood said. -Children and adolescents, their brains are developing, and they are not able to understand the consequences of their behavior and the fact that it is unsafe. They can be very impulsive. "


In an interview, a mother who lost her child shares her thoughts on her daughter and the dangers on social media.

“She was a butterfly,” said Anderson of Chester, Pennsylvania.

“I just want people to pay attention and know about TikTok ... Just pay attention because you never know what to find on their phones or what they are trying. They do it because they are children and they don’t know anything, ”she added.

Wood supported and comforted the family while Neela was in intensive care from her hospitalization on December 7th until her death on December 12th. Despite the fact that she did not know the girl before the accident, she learned more about her.

“I saw a lot of pictures and videos of her in the few days I spent with my family and she was just full of life. She and her twin brother (Nakye) were very athletic, very active, constantly on the move, ”Wood said. "They were busy, happy, healthy 10-year-olds."

Social media and kids

Wood said Anderson knew that Neela, her siblings and cousins ​​watched TikTok frequently and made their own dance and lip-sync videos.

But Anderson had no idea that dangerous videos were lurking on the platform. Neela did not suffer from mental disorders and never expressed any desire to harm herself.

“Neela’s mom didn’t know that children's behavior was becoming more and more risky. When Neela was in the hospital, they found some of the videos she watched and filmed herself, ”Wood said.

“These challenges are becoming more and more risky, and children of this age and even teenagers and young people do not understand the consequences of what they are doing,” she added.

A TikTok spokesperson stated that any content that promotes dangerous behavior is a violation of TikTok's community guidelines. The app says it does not serve search results or hashtags related to the blackout challenge.

“This alarming 'problem' that people seem to be learning about from sources other than TikTok originated long before our platform and has never been a TikTok trend,” a spokesperson said in an email statement.

“We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety. We will immediately remove such content if found. We express our deepest condolences to the family for their tragic loss, ”he said.

Wood hopes that parents will talk to their children more often about social media and keep a close eye on how they use it.

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“What is most important is to maintain open communication with your children so that you, as a parent, talk to them about what they see and what they think,” she said.

“This is your opportunity to talk about safety ... and why things and behaviors can be dangerous,” the doctor added.

Sometimes parents worry that if they bring up a difficult topic, it might push their child to do so. But this is not the case.

“Parents are concerned that if they talk to their children, they might generate more curiosity, but that communication is very important,” Wood said.

“Keeping open communication with your children allows children to ask questions of their parents. And this is absolutely necessary for the safety of our children, ”she stressed.

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