Every Parent Needs to See What This 'Safe' Internet Challenge Did to a 10-Year-Old Boy

dangerous internet challenges
Cath Matar
From the salt and ice challenge to the blue whale challenge, parents have been warned about different Internet "games" that are sending kids to the hospital. After talking to her three kids about these dangerous trends, Cath Matar never thought she'd find her own child covered in blood because he tried to copy something he saw online. Yet, when 10-year-old Leo came across the "pass out safely" challenge on YouTube, he didn't realize there was any harm in giving it a try -- it said that it was safe, after all, and it wasn't asking him to ingest or do anything "painful" to his body.

  • Leo was in his room looking at magic tricks on YouTube for a school project when he came across a pass-out challenge.

    cute young boy
    Cath Matar

    The challenge instructed Leo to breathe in and out quickly for 30 seconds while standing up and then crouch to his knees and breathe the same way for 15 seconds. He was then instructed to quickly stand up and put his thumb in his mouth, and blow hard for at least 10 seconds. Leo promptly passed out and cracked his head open on his dresser before landing on his wood floor.

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  • Cath was vacuuming when she heard Leo's crash and came running into the room, where she found Leo on the ground with blood pooling around his neck.

    cute young boy
    Cath Matar

    Horrified, she rushed her son to the hospital, where she learned from doctors in the emergency room that Leo isn't the only kid they've seen seriously injured from this "safe" challenge. "The medical team told me about the tragic passing of a 13-year-old boy who literally went to school only a kilometer from where we live and died just after Christmas last year after attempting this challenge," Cath tells CafeMom. "He went hypoxic and never regained consciousness. Another 14-year-old boy ended up in emergency surgery and also passed away after he did one of these challenges and ended up cracking his skull open."

    Hearing about these other children who were taken to the same hospital as her son and ended up dead from the same "challenge" made Cath realize that she needed to share her story with as many parents as possible. "These two other cases must surely be a drop in the ocean in regard to the far-reaching consequences of the Internet and what it encourages our children to try while recklessly labeling these ridiculous challenges as 'safe,'" she says. 

  • Leo needed two layers of stitches and was at risk for a serious infection.

    cute young boy
    Cath Matar

    After the initial scare, Cath asked Leo why he tried the challenge, and he innocently explained that he didn't think this was a dangerous one. "'Mom, I thought the guy in it looked fake, like no way could someone pass out just with breathing. Then I thought I would give it a go and I put a pillow on my bed. I figured that if it did work, because it said 'safely,' nothing bad would happen. But I didn't think it would even work,'" Cath recalls Leo explaining. "THAT stupid few lines has done and DOES KILL our children, yet what child would look at that and honestly think they could end up dead? They are not inhaling a substance, they are not breathing in or eating anything, they are not applying anything like fire or ice to their bodies ... they are using NOTHING but their bodies and therein lies the danger of such things."

    Cath explained that to most kids, the challenge would look more like a silly dance on YouTube watching people bend their knees and put their thumb in their mouth. "The cruel irony of this situation was that this challenge popped up interspersed between magic tricks and science experiments which were harmless," Cath says. "In the past Leo HAD looked at these challenges ... not this one but others and he knew not to do them. Due to my warnings he didn't bother looking for or at them anymore but when something deadly masks itself among other sites that are educational and harmless, no child is immune from exposure to them."

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 82 kids have died in recent years from playing different online "choking" games.

    cute young boy
    Cath Matar

    Cath realizes just how lucky she and Leo are that he didn't end up with permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen or from the fall. A 2008 study from the CDC found that not only is an increasing number of kids across the United States dying from these challenges, but also that the majority of their parents have never heard of them before discovering their child has been harmed. 

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  • Both Cath and her son hope that parents and their kids see Leo's injuries to learn from what he went through from just wanting to try something out.

    cute young boy
    Cath Matar

    "I hope that our unpleasant, though very lucky in hindsight, experience will educate moms, dads, and carergivers about the insidious and latent dangers of the Internet. These are predators of a different kind," Cath says. "They too prey on children's vulnerability, gullibility, and ignorance. They too cause physical harm and even death. They don't appear sinister; most of these YouTubers appear cool, relevant, and imitable. They are not latent like other predators -- they have followers, likes, and viral credits."

health & safety