A 14-year-old boy accidentally died by choking himself for a TikTok ‘Blackout Challenge’, his mum says.
Heartbroken Vanessa Boyd has warned parents to keep a close eye on what their children get up to online after her son James Boyd-Gergely was found dead last year.
The Coroner has not confirmed whether James was taking part in the disturbing trend on TikTok but Vanessa insists he was a happy lad who had never self-harmed before.
James had been living on a farm in Laagan, New South Wales during the lockdown in Australia on April 22, 2020, when his lifeless body was found on the front veranda.
Over the past year an 11-year-old girl from Italy and a boy aged 12 in America have both died from attempting the so-called challenge, news.com.au reports.
Vanessa believes her son’s death was the result of peer pressure on social media and being isolated from school closures.
James’ cause of death is still being examined by the Coroner.
His mum admitted he had struggled with bullies at school but said: “There was nothing going on with self-harm in the lead up to that.
“The day he died, he did his chores and did his homework. He never would have done his homework if he was planning something like that.
“He seems to have been on TikTok that day and there was the choking challenge where a lot of teenage boys challenge each other to film themselves finding different ways to choke themselves to get some sort of euphoric feeling.”
She added: “He was out riding his motorbike that day. The fire was lit and he was playing music.
“It’s almost like it was a stunt gone wrong. There is no way in my mind that he would do that intentionally.
“He had a great group of friends at school, he was happy.”
Vanessa revealed a search of James’ phone showed he had been searching TikTok choking challenge videos on the day of his death, according to news.com.au.
She is now raising awareness for cyber-bullying and the work of Australian charity, Dolly’s Dream.
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“Confirming the TikTok side of things is going to be hard. It took over three months to get into his phone, and after three months, TikTok resets itself, so we can’t see exactly what he was looking at,” she added.
“But we can see the last searches and that was on there.
“I’m a big supporter of Dolly’s Dream. I live rurally, I live that lifestyle and that was so shocking to me to read that story [about Dolly Everett’s suicide] when it came out,” she said.
“It really affected me, but I never once thought to talk to my child about it, and the same thing happened at almost the same age to my child.
“There needs to be more discussion as there is a big gap there that isn’t filled.”
TikTok has introduced a ‘Guardian’s Guide’ to help parents engage with their child’s social media activity.