Hollie Dance arrived home to find her son, 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, unconscious with a bandage around his neck. It happened on April 7 of this year in the United Kingdom: the mother believes that this was the result of a viral challenge from the social network Tik Tok, known as the “Blackout Challenge”, which consists of squeezing the neck until one loses consciousness due to lack of oxygen.
The child was transported to the Royal London Hospital in London, where he was diagnosed with brain death. The diagnosis was the start of a legal battle between the hospital and Archie’s parents, who refuse to accept the doctors’ recommendation to shut down the life support machines that maintain the child’s vital signs, who have been in a coma for several months. Hollie and Paul argue that their son, despite not being conscious, was still alive and they want him to stay that way, hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube until his “natural death.”
Doctors, for their part, believe that even if life-supporting treatment is continued, Archie will eventually die over the next few weeks from organ failure and heart failure. But the family holds out hope and refuses to believe that this will be Archie’s outcome. The case went to court and the parents even resorted to international bodies, namely the United Nations (UN), which wrote a letter addressed to the doctors at that hospital, appealing for the machines to remain on.
However, the British Court rejected the UN’s appeal, pointing out that the body does not have binding force on national law and, after several requests and deliberations, the judges gave the doctors the right, considering that the maintenance of life support treatments would not be necessary. in the “best interest” of the child.
Judge Says Archie Wasn’t “The Same Boy” His Parents Known
The three judges of the Royal Courts of Justice decided to delay the end of Archie’s treatment for 48 hours (until this Wednesday) to allow the child’s parents to file an application with the European Court of Human Rights to rule on the case. . Andrew McFarlane, one of the judges of the London court, went so far as to say that Archie “is no longer the same boy in the photograph” that went viral after the case was publicized. The child is now “someone whose bodily functions are all maintained by artificial means,” he added.
Leaving the Royal Courts of Justice, Hollie Dance assured that she would not give up on her son: “The system shouldn’t be allowed to do this to people. All I asked for from day one was time. We’re talking about my boy and I I will fight as much as possible.”
Archie’s parents then decided to appeal the decision through the Supreme Court, which ensured that the case would receive their attention on an “urgent” basis. The decision was announced the same day, but it was not the response the couple had hoped for. In a statement, the judges say that the parents have exhausted their “legal rights” to keep the child ventilated. “The panel arrives at this conclusion with a heavy heart,” reads the text, quoted by the British media.
Meanwhile, Hollie and Paul appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in an attempt to delay the British Supreme Court’s decision to shut down their son’s life support machines, thus preventing the machines from being turned off.
Archie’s case is not unique – according to The Washington Post, there are already several families facing such an outcome in the wake of the Tik Tok challenge. Nylah Anderson, a 10-year-old girl from Chester, Pennsylvania, was found unconscious in her bedroom in December 2021. After five days in hospital, Nylah died.
Other families from several countries have reported similar situations over the past two years: James Boyd-Gergely, a 14-year-old boy from Australia, died after participating in the challenge in April 2020, and the same happened to a 10-year-old girl. , from Palermo, Italy, who died in January of last year.
Speaking to The Washington Post, at the time of the death of two 12-year-old children – one from Colorado and one from Oklahoma, in the United States – in 2021, a Tik Tok spokesperson called the challenge “disturbing “, but demarcated the social network from deaths resulting from it, arguing that children seem to learn about this challenge through sources other than Tik Tok, being “a challenge that already existed” before the emergence of the social network. [criada em 2016]. “It was never a Tik Tok trend,” she stressed.
“Not worth banning”
Given the seriousness of these situations, it is natural for parents to wonder what they should do to prevent their children from falling into the temptation of imitating the content they watch on the Internet, as they do with the famous Tik Tok dances and others. social network challenges. But anyone who believes that banning children’s access to content is the solution is wrong.
According to psychologist Bárbara Ramos Dias, specialist in Adolescent Psychology and author of the book “Consegues Tudo o Que Queres”, which explores this theme, “it is not worth prohibiting” access to applications, especially because children “have access to to these applications in schools” when interacting with peers. The solution, therefore, involves “warning of the dangers and teaching them how to surf the Internet safely”, as they teach their children “to cross the road, to set the table or not to accept anything from strangers on the street”.
“It is up to us to give them responsibility, maturity, teach them to say no. If we control or forbid them, then they will do much worse”, he says, invoking the old maxim that “the forbidden fruit is always the most desired”.
For parents who believe that approaching the subject can have the opposite effect, that is, it can arouse children’s interest in these contents, psychologist Bárbara Ramos Dias guarantees that the worst thing is not to mention these topics and not warn about the dangers: “We must warn them so that they are prepared so that, if that happens, they will be able to say ‘no’.”
Remote parental control
Psychologist and psychotherapist Tânia Annes, from Clínica da Mente, also considers that banning is not the solution, but argues that “parents must have some authority in this matter”, first of all through parental control of content and the time children pass on the Internet. There are already applications that allow you to do just that, such as Google’s Family Link, which parents can install on their devices and remotely control what children can access when using cell phones and tablets.
“All applications have these restrictions on content that can be seen, the number of hours they can be in front of the screen, so parents must take advantage and must use these parental controls to block certain content that is not suitable for the age of the children”, he says.
In addition to parental control applications, Tânia Annes suggests that parents do not allow children to access passwords for social media applications, so that they have to ask parents for permission to do so.
“We cannot give a child a cell phone and let him browse the Internet freely without any supervision. This is not educating”, he stresses.
The PSP recommendations
Contacted by CNN Portugal, the PSP says that “so far it has no record of cases or knowledge of any suspicious situation that could be framed in this viral challenge”, but warns of the “need for strong supervision regarding the access of young people to the Internet”. “.
“Parents, guardians and/or adults who have children or young people under their responsibility must be aware of the content they consult and share, keeping direct observation of the device being used and/or by consulting the history”, he says.
The police advises parents to “seek information regarding the characteristics of these ‘challenges’, as well as the different forms of dissemination, in order to know how to identify them”, and to approach the issue with children and young people “from an educational, constructive, and forwarder, enlightening them about the dangers that are associated with them and the use of the internet in general”.
Parents should be particularly “attentive to changes in the behavior of children/young people, especially to anomalous dispositions of a depressive nature or apathetic/out of touch with reality”, he adds.
Internet security is one of the topics “most addressed by the PSP”, from the outset within the scope of the Escola Segura Program, he indicates, pointing out that, in this context, the police seek to carry out “group awareness actions using presentations alluding to the topic in class” and establish “individual contacts with the entire educational community, including the students’ parents”.
“In these actions, the risks inherent to the use of the Internet, in general, and of social networks, in particular, by children and young people are addressed, giving special emphasis to the “challenges”. In this way, we seek to create a more informed community about of this theme that can, in turn, be more attentive and able to recognize potential risk situations, protect themselves and, if necessary, seek support and communicate them to the PSP”, can be read in the written response sent to CNN Portugal.