Family says social media challenge led to death of 9-year-old Tennessee boy


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – A family mourned Friday after the death of a 9-year-old little boy, and they believe a social media challenge led to a freak accident resulting in his death.

The family of LaTerius Smith Jr., who was called TJ by family, remembers how talkative and outgoing he was. But instead of looking forward to a summer full of activities, his relatives were preparing for his funeral. 

“To see that baby laying in that casket, hasn’t even had an opportunity to grow up,” said LaTerius’ great, great aunt Barbara Williams. “You know, his life has ended because of some people putting stupid things on various sites.”

LaTerius was discovered unresponsive in his room last week. Family says they found him with a belt around his neck and rushed him to a hospital. He didn’t survive. 

“It wasn’t until later on that we found out there was some type of video on TikTok, you know, letting kids know … how to strangle yourself,” Williams said. “But you got to get out of it, the challenge was to get out of it. But he’s 9 years old, he’s 9 years old, so how was he going to get out of it?”

Over the last few years, throughout the country, various social media trends like “the pass out challenge” or choking games have been blamed for the deaths of young people. 

Laterius’ family doesn’t want others to endure the pain they’re experiencing.

Their message to parents this summer, when children will have even more free time, is to monitor everything. They encourage parents to block various social media sites, as well as educate themselves about what could be lurking behind children’s screens. 

“I know you can’t watch them 24 hours, but that in which you can do, you just have to save a life,” Williams said.

A spokesperson with TikTok says these challenges have been banned from their site. See more from the social media platform’s resources for parents and guardians.

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