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Archie Battersbee’s mum begs parents to use her son as a warning against 'online challenges'

4 August 2022, 17:22 | Updated: 4 August 2022, 17:55

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

The mother of tragic 12-year-old Archie Battersbee is begging parents to use her son as an example, to warn children of the risks of dangerous online challenges.

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The talented gymnast and keen athlete was found with a ligature over his head at his home in Southend in April.

It's thought he was taking part in some sort of 'choking' or 'blackout' challenge; where children are encouraged to cut off oxygen until they pass out.

But it went tragically wrong, and the lack of oxygen left him with catastrophic brain injury.

Now his parents are locked in a legal battle with the hospital about whether or not they can move him to a hospice to spend his final moments.

If Archie was trying the blackout challenge, he sadly won't be the first to lose his life.

At least seven children in the US and Europe, aged between 8-12, are thought to have died whilst attempting it.

Read more: Let my Archie die in peace: 'Heartbroken' mum's plea to let 'brain-dead' son spend final moments in hospice

Archie Battersbee's mum warns children of the risks of dangerous online 'challenges'.
Archie Battersbee's mum warns children of the risks of dangerous online 'challenges'. Picture: LBC

Archie's mother Hollie Dance first thought he’d been the victim of a tragic accident, but after being sent videos of these challenges she was horrified and heartbroken by the trend.

She told LBC: "[It's] heart-breaking, because I think, if I'd known about these challenges I could have had that conversation with him even the day before. And I know that I would have been really firm with that conversation, and we wouldn't be here now."

She’s now pleading with parents to tell their children about Archie, and explain the risks: "If you have to use Archie as the topic to address it, just please sit down with your children with regards to these online challenges.

"Once you look into it, they're so frightening."

Read more: Budding astronomer, 14, fell to his death from tower block balcony 'trying to look at stars', inquest hears

Archie Battersbee's mum warns children of the risks of dangerous online 'challenges'.
Archie Battersbee's mum warns children of the risks of dangerous online 'challenges'. Picture: LBC

Matthew Bergman is a lawyer in the US, and co-founder of the Social Media Victims Law Centre, who represents two families whose daughters Lalani Walton and Arriani Arroyo, died after seeing the trend on TikTok.

They are now suing the social media giant.

Mr Bergman told LBC: "In 25 years of representing injured people I have never seen parents less motivated by money.

"They are first, foremost and exclusively motivated by preventing other families and children from undergoing the horrific loss that they did."

He says the families have been left traumatised by what happened to their daughters, and are wracked with guilt, but that the social media sites need to take more responsibility for this content.

"The parents are wracked with guilt, you know, why didn't they know about this?

"They just don't know what their children as being exposed to on these platforms, they have no idea.

"And unless and until these companies are held accountable we're going to see more cases like this."

Archie Battersbee’s mum warns parents against 'online challenges'
Archie Battersbee’s mum warns parents against 'online challenges'. Picture: LBC

But the 'pass out' or 'blackout' challenge is just one of a series of dangerous challenges that E-Safety Training's John Staines warns are taking social media by storm.

Mr Staines goes into schools around Essex and the South East to educate children on online dangers, and says challenges are fast becoming an epidemic.

He said: "Recently a seven year old confessed to having tried the 'hold your breath' challenge, where he put his younger brother's rope toy around his neck and pulled it "until he got the squidgy feeling in his tummy (which is what you feel right before you pass out) and thankfully then he let go."

Another boy in Year One was found face down in the bath by his horrified mum who realised he was trying something similar.

He also explained about the 'skull breaker' challenge: "Where two people swipe out the legs of a friend who's walking in the middle, so they fall on their head.

"There have been deaths, brain damage, broken backs from that."

He also knows about a challenge to put a cube of ice in a whirring fan, another where you dry your tongue with a hairdryer and try to eat a cracker (without choking) or a test that involves walking out across a road at night, blind folded.

"All these challenges have a big dare attached, but they are catastrophic because they are life threatening," he explains.

Mr Staines says when they go into schools, often every child in a classroom will raise their hand and admit to having watched these challenges; while their parents have never heard of them.

He says the most important thing is for parents to be aware of these sorts of trends, and to understand and talk to their children about the risks before it’s too late.

LBC approached TikTok for comment but they declined.

If the content in the article has affected you, or you are worried about a child please visit Keeping children safe online | NSPCC.