The death of nine-year-old Emmanuel Poteon is being linked to the TikTok “Blackout Challenge”.
Police said yesterday that Poteon was found dead about 5.08 p.m. on Monday in the bathroom of a guest bedroom of his home along Penguin Crescent, Maloney Gardens.
He was found with a belt around his neck. His phone was nearby.
Failed attempts were made to resuscitate him.
Police were told that young Emmanuel was last seen alive about 2 p.m. in the house.
At the time, he was in the company of his grandmother and his 13-year-old cousin.
It was said the two relatives realised young Emmanuel had gotten quiet, and went searching from him.
However, the checks were unsuccessful at the time.
It was not until three hours later that his body was discovered.
A team of officers led by Cpl Diamond responded.
Police were told that the young boy may have been trying to participate in the ‘Blackout Challenge’ on TikTok, by putting a belt around his neck and holding his breath while recording himself on his phone.
When the Express visited the family’s home yesterday, relatives declined to speak to the media, noting that it was in the hands of the police.
“It’s already out there, what more do we need to say?” a woman asked.
Neighbours were similarly tight-lipped, however, they all expressed sadness over the incident.
“That’s a hard thing. And I know the family is taking it hard. The boy was already home a lot of the time, with the whole school closed thing, and I know his parents had to work and weren’t home as much. And then when you leave them (children) behind their devices, you’re not thinking much further than that. So if what is being reported is true, that he was trying to do some challenge…then that is hard. Cause as much as you might want to, at that age, you’re honestly not going to have your eye on kids at all times,” one man said.
The “Blackout Challenge” is a social media trend which encourages people to try and pass out for as long as possible by restricting their airflow.
While the social media platform TikTok may have been the most recent platform of the challenge, it’s been around since 2014 on other platforms, including Snapchat and Instagram, and even went by different names such as the Choking Game or the Fainting Game.
There has even been an adapted version of the challenge called “the Pass Out challenge” which encouraged persons to shake their heads until they pass out.
The objective of these so-called challenges is to “not breathe” for as long as possible.
Just last Wednesday, a ten-year-old girl in Italy died under similar circumstances in a Palermo hospital. She was found by her five-year-old sister at home in the bathroom with her cellphone, which was seized by police. Since then access to data on TikTok has been temporarily blocked for any user whose age is not verified, while police look into the role the app played.
The social media platform, popular particularly among teenagers worldwide, is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. According to TikTok’s terms and conditions, users must be at least 13 years old.
Children’s Authority dispatches teams
After learning of the incident, the Children’s Authority of T&T dispatched its Emergency Response Team to determine if support is needed for the family.
The Authority also called on parents to be mindful of trends on social media which have the potential to be harmful to children.
“In the death of a nine-year-old child, allegedly as a result of a TikTok challenge gone wrong, the Authority is calling on parents and guardians to be aware of popular trends on social media apps that are harmful to children. While the app TikTok has been used to share funny and informational content, there has been an increase of challenges that have been proven to be dangerous to children and in some instances caused death. Parents and guardians are advised to monitor their children’s use of devices and utilise safety settings for the internet and social media apps.
“The Authority notes that some apps including TikTok allow parents and guardians to set time limits, filter mature and or harmful content, and disable direct messaging for accounts through the app settings with a passcode. Further, parents and guardians should hold regular conversations on the importance of not participating or imitating social media trends and or challenges due to the possibility of harm or death,” the Authority stated in a release.