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Tennessee Family Blames Dangerous TikTok 'Strangulation Challenge' For 9-Year-Old Boy's Death

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A dangerous TikTok challenge may be to blame for the death of a 9-year-old boy who was rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious in his room.

In Memphis, Tennessee, LaTerius Smith Jr, known as TJ by family members, died soon after being brought to the hospital. The family of LaTerius now feels that it may have been due to a TikTok challenge called "strangulation challenge."

The challenge dares participants to try to escape their self inflicted strangulation.

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In an interview with Memphis' WREG, LaTerius' great-great-aunt Barbara Williams said:

"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."
"But you got to get out of it, the challenge was to get out of it."
"But he's 9 years old, he's 9 years old, so how was he going to get out of it?"

Through tears, Williams reflected on the tragic situation:

"To see that baby laying in that casket, hasn't even had an opportunity to grow up."
"You know, his life has ended because of some people putting stupid things on various sites."

In 2008, the Center for Disease (CDC) control released a study about the "Choking Game," which is similar to the one going around this year. It warned, even over a decade ago, of the rise in fatalities due to this trend.

The CDC reported:

"Eighty–seven percent of these deaths were among males, and most fatalities occurred among those 11 years to 16 years old."
"CDC found that most of the deaths occurred when a child engaged in the choking game alone, and that most parents were unaware of the choking game prior to their child's death."

The studies lead author Robin L. Toblin, Ph.D., M.P.H., said:

"Because most parents in the study had not heard of the choking game, we hope to raise awareness of the choking game among parents, health care providers, and educators, so they can recognize warning signs of the activity."
"This is especially important because children themselves may not appreciate the dangers of this activity."

In 2021 alone, two other deaths other than LaTerius were reported because of this challenge. Those victims included Joshua Haileyesus, age 12, from Colorado, and Nate Squires, age 13, from Massachusetts.



LaTerius' family is urging parents and guardians to monitor their children's social media consumption and be aware of the potential dangers they could be putting themselves in.

Williams said:

"I know you can't watch them 24 hours, but that in which you can do, you just have to save a life."

A TikTok spokesperson said dangerous challenges like these have been banned from their site.

Any found on the site should be reported for violations.