A 13-year-old boy’s parents say their middle schooler ended up in the hospital after two of his classmates allegedly tripped him during a viral game for TikTok.
Stacy and Marc Shenker of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said that their son was injured in January, landing him in the hospital with a concussion that led to a seizure, CBS Los Angles reported Tuesday.
The Shenker’s son was the victim of a viral prank circulating on the popular social media platform TikTok called the “Skull-breaker challenge.” The challenge requires one person to be unaware of its real purpose: to see them falling backward onto the ground.
Videos of the “Skull-breaker challenge” show three people standing in a row, ostensibly to learn a dance routine. But when it comes time to jump in the air, the two people on either end instead use their legs to knock the middle person’s legs out from under them, causing them to fall.
The Shenker’s son, who is in seventh grade, was the person in the middle and hit his head when he fell. School employees called Stacy to say that her son had been injured, and when she arrived he was non-responsive and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.
The two students who tripped him, both minors, have been charged with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree endangering an injured victim, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office’s public information officer tells PEOPLE.
“Please talk to your children about the potential consequences when you participate in a ‘challenge’ or online trend,” said acting Camden County prosecutor Jill S. Mayer in a statement. “While the challenges may seem funny or get views on social media platforms, they can have serious and long lasting health consequences.”
Cherry Hills Public Schools superintendent Joseph Meloche sent a letter to parents urging them to monitor their children’s social media use and to talk with them about not replicating what they see on TikTok and elsewhere online.
“Recently, a few CHPS students attempted to replicate ‘pranks’ or ‘challenges’ they saw on TikTok, and other platforms, resulting in classmates being injured – physically and emotionally,” Meloche said in the letter. “Often, children act impulsively and without considering the consequence of their actions. If your child has an electronic device, ask them to share what apps they are viewing and using. Help them to understand the extreme unintended outcomes that may occur because of a fleeting moment of making a bad choice.”
“Parents need to know about this because it could happen again,” Stacy told NBC News. “It’s really opened our eyes to what is out there.”
The injured student has since returned to school and is in physical therapy, but requires some academic accommodations as he recovers from his hospital stay.
“It was really very scary,” Stacy said of the ordeal. “My son is slowly making progress.”
A spokesperson for TikTok tells PEOPLE that “the safety and well-being” of its users “is a top priority” and that the content is being removed.
“As we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous challenges that might lead to injury,” the spokesperson says in a statement. “The behavior in question is a violation of our guidelines and we will continue to remove this content from our platform. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off. To keep our platform safe, we provide a number of safety controls in the app and educational resources on our Safety Center.”
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