More than 12,000 people have signed a petition to TikTok seeking “mirror” accounts for parents, which would give parents access to the videos their children are watching.
The petition follows the death of a 12-year-old boy in Bethany, Oklahoma, on July 20, who died after attempting to complete a Tiktok trend called the “blackout” challenge. The challenge prompts Tiktok users record themselves holding their breath or choking themselves until they lose consciousness. The boy was found unresponsive with ligature marks on his neck and died the next morning.
Advocacy group ParentsTogether say that “mirror” accounts would enable parents to intervene in dangerous situations and talk to their kids about harmful content, citing cases such extreme dieting or white supremacist material as examples.
Several other children have been died from this viral trend, including a 12-year-old boy in April and a 9-year-old boy in June.
“We would like to warn parents to stay involved with their children and take the time to look what they are doing on social media,” the Bethany Police Department said in a statement. “Now more than ever due to the lockdowns, kids are bored and looking to occupy their time. Social media is a very influential part of a child’s life and should be heavily scrutinized by parents.”
The petition, addressed to TikTok’s CEO Vanessa Pappas, lists “bullying, sexual predators, and harmful content encouraging violence and self-harm,” as dangers created by the app faced by children.
“And even though it’s the #1 platform for kids, TikTok makes it extremely difficult for parents to keep kids safe,” the petition reads. “Unlike other platforms where someone’s content feed is based on the accounts and hashtags they follow, TikTok uses an opaque algorithm to choose what to show kids. That means parents have no way of knowing what their kids see.”