Saskatoon mom says online 'challenge' resulted in son's death
SASKATOON -- Melanie Anderson is sharing the story of her teenage son’s death in the hopes that it will prevent a similar tragedy.
Cash Anderson went to Chief Whitecap School in Saskatoon's Stonebridge neighbourhood and would have turned 14 on Tuesday.
Earlier this month Cash died trying an online challenge: the "pass-out challenge" or "blackout challenge," according to Anderson.
The goal of the challenge is to induce temporary loss of consciousness leading to a feeling of euphoria.
The challenge is not new according to Anderson, who has reached out to other parents in support groups who have lost children in similar ways.
Anderson believes Cash learned about the challenge on TikTok. Last month, Italian authorities opened a probe into the accidental death of a 10-year-old girl who may have taken part in a similar "blackout challenge" allegedly shared on the video app.
CTV News has contacted ByteDance, the company which owns Tik Tok, and is awaiting a response.
But that's just the latest platform potentially spreading information about the dangerous challenge, according to a Saskatoon pediatrician.
"Depending on the day the year, there’s different versions of it. With this latest one, a belt is used to try and pass out," said Dr. Ayisha Kurji, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan.
"We’re naïve to think that this happens somewhere else because we are a small city compared to other places. We have to realize that everything that’s happening somewhere else is probably happening here,” Kurji said.
Anderson says Cash was a normal Grade 8 boy. He loved skateboarding and had friends.
Kurji encourages open dialogue - especially now with more screen time during the pandemic and increased isolation.
“If we see or hear about things like this, we should talk about it. Hey, I heard about this challenge. Have any of your friends done it? What are the risks associated with that? Teenagers also sometimes think they are invincible,” Kurji said.
Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina, said TikTok isn’t the only factor to blame.
“TikTok is probably a fair representation of the Internet in general. There are tons of great content across the Internet. You learn on the Internet formally and informally. We’ve got good news and information but of course there’s misinformation and a number of communities that are very harmful.”
Parents should take responsibility and look for the trends on TikTok, he said.
“And watch if your kids are participating in the latest trends. There are harmful memes and things will embarrass you too.”
Anderson wants other parents to watch for signs. Looking back Anderson recalls seeing marks on her son’s neck, which may have indicated that this wasn’t the first time he tried the challenge.
Anderson is a single mother who lives with her 17-year-old son.
She said they plan to move from the home they’ve lived in since Cash was a young boy, saying the memories are too painful.