By Lauren Edmonds
The family of a nine-year-old boy who was found dead last week in his bedroom has blamed a reported TikTok strangulation challenge.
An obituary for LaTerius Smith Jr. said he died on June 10 in Memphis, Tennessee. LaTerius, known by his family as “TJ,” would have turned 10 years old at the end of this month.
“To see that baby laying in that casket, hasn’t even had an opportunity to grow up,” LaTerius’ great-great-aunt Barbara Williams told Memphis’ WREG. “You know, his life has ended because of some people putting stupid things on various sites.”
WREG reported that family members discovered LaTerius unresponsive in his bedroom with a belt around his neck. The young boy was reportedly rushed to a local hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.
“It wasn’t until later on that we found out there was some type of video on TikTok, you know, letting kids know … how to strangle yourself,” Williams told the outlet. “But you got to get out of it, the challenge was to get out of it. But he’s nine years old, he’s nine years old, so how was he going to get out of it?”
Over the last several years, dangerous trends like the “pass out challenge” have spread on social media apps. The challenges encourage people to choke themselves until they pass out for several seconds, which is meant to stimulate a high.
In January, a 10-year-old Italian girl accidentally died while participating in the “blackout” challenge. In May, a 13-year-old girl was hospitalized in Oregon with severe third-degree burns to her body her family told ABC News they believe were from recreating a TikTok with rubbing alcohol and a lighter.
A representative for TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. TikTok’s community guidelines prohibit “content that depicts, promotes, normalizes, or glorifies such behavior, including amateur stunts or dangerous challenges.”
LaTerius’ family told WREG they wanted to urge other parents and families to monitor their children’s social media usage, block sites when needed, and educate themselves about what children are exposed to online.
“I know you can’t watch them 24 hours, but that in which you can do, you just have to save a life,” Williams told WREG.
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Posted on June 21, 2021 at 12:01 pm