Mother who lost teen to viral challenge calls for more protections

The CEOs of X, Snapchat, Discord, TikTok and Meta are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The hearing comes as Congress is trying to pass legislation to regulate tech and social media companies.

There’s momentum for new legislation to protect kids online. Lawmakers believe tech and social media companies aren’t doing enough to police themselves. Some parents have been waiting years for Congress to act.

“If Congress steps in, that would be a game changer,” said Joann Bogard.

Bogard is a mother of three in Indiana. Her youngest son, Mason, died after attempting the viral “blackout challenge” in 2019. The challenge encourages people to hold their breath until they pass out. 

Bogard is now part of a group that spreads awareness about the harms kids face online.

“Unfortunately, about half of our members have lost a child. Others are pediatricians, psychologists, teachers, people who want to make a change who are seeing the downward spiral in the mental health of kids. And you know, the sexual exploitation, the challenges, the cyberbullying, the suicide ideation. It’s endless,” Bogard told Scripps News.

Just weeks before Mason’s death, Bogard said she and her son talked about the need to be careful online and avoid dangerous social media challenges. However, she notes that checking his phone and having parental controls in place wasn’t enough.

“When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s hard to protect them, which is why we really want to put the social media companies in the hot seat so that they can start being transparent with the things that they know and we can put some protections in place,” Bogard said.

Senators are hoping to hold the social media CEOs accountable for the failure to protect kids online. They also want to know what can be done to better protect kids going forward.