CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — Concerned parents and leaders in the North Country are warning about the so-called “choking challenge.
According to St. Lawrence County Youth Bureau Director Alexa Backus, this challenge involves individuals intentionally choking themselves to experience brief, “euphoric” episodes. It is also known as the “blackout challenge” and “pass out challenge.”
This recently brought tragedy to St. Lawrence County as it took the life of 12-year-old Xander Worthley, a student in Canton. Since his death in March, his parents along with the St. Lawrence County Youth Bureau and local schools have been working to educate the community on the dangers behind challenges on social media.
However, Backus said, these are not new challenges and have been taking the lives of teens across the U.S. for decades.
“We’ve been seeing these challenges for decades. This isn’t something that’s new,” she warned. “I’ve received phone calls and emails from other parents who have lost children to this choking challenge. I spoke with a mom in Indiana who lost her 15-year-old son three years ago, as well as a mom in California who lost her 12-year-old son in 2010.”
But Backus said that when tragedies like this occur, it serves as a reminder for adults in the North Country to talk with teens about what they see online, even if the topics are difficult.
“This is a call to action for parents to understand that first and foremost, this can happen to anybody,” Backus expressed.
“From what I hear from other families who have lost children due to accidents and even death by suicides, you know, we are hearing so much, have uncomfortable conversations, open up dialogue because it’s showing our children that we care and we have safe people, safe adults that they can go to.”
To further educate the public, the St. Lawrence County Youth Bureau and Canton Central School District are set to host a public forum at the beginning of May. At this forum, the public will hear from Xander’s parents.
The forum will also feature local parents and guardians who have lost their children to death by suicide, including the guardian of 18-year-old Shylynn Dixon who took her life after being sextorted on social media last year.
A date for the forum has yet to be released, but more information will be provided as it is made available.