- Several parents of kids hospitalized for ingesting magnets have blamed a TikTok trend.
- In May, the UK’s National Health Service called to ban the magnets in response to the alleged trend.
- TikTok said there’s no evidence the trend exists. Insider was unable to find clips on the platform.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Several parents of children hospitalized for swallowing tiny magnets have blamed the incidents on an alleged TikTok craze, but there is little evidence linking the trend to TikTok, according to the app.
The purported TikTok challenge involves video creators placing magnetic balls at the top and bottom of their mouths so that they pull toward each other and look like fake tongue piercings, according to Today and other outlets.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), which did not respond to a request for comment, called to ban tiny magnetic balls in a May statement on its website. The UK health agency wrote that they were being used in a “potentially life-threatening TikTok trend.”
Katrina Phillips, head of the United Kingdom’s Child Accident Prevention Trust, said in the NHS statement that if swallowed, these magnets can stick together and cut off blood supply, which can cause tissue to die and be life-threatening.
But there does not appear to be a major TikTok trend involving people placing magnetic balls into their mouths, says TikTok.
A TikTok spokesperson told Insider in a statement that they could not find “evidence” of the trend existing on the app and said content that “encourages, promotes, or glorifies behavior that might lead to injury” is prohibited.
Insider searched for “TikTok magnet challenge,” “TikTok magnet piercings,” and other variations of the alleged trend, but was unable to find any videos besides TikToks that warned other people not to place magnets in their mouth.
A Fox News article from June embedded a TikTok video which they said garnered over 20,000 views and showed someone with magnets stuck to the top of their lip, but the TikTok is no longer available to watch.
Dyan Hes, a New York City pediatrician, told Insider that magnetic balls have been “wreaking havoc” on children’s health for years.
Many outlets and parents have called it a TikTok trend
Despite the apparent lack of evidence, several parents have claimed in news reports that their children were inspired to put magnets into their mouths because of a TikTok craze.
A mother of an 11-year-old who was hospitalized in May for swallowing five magnetic balls blamed a “TikTok craze,” the Daily Mail reported. A mother of a 6-year-old who was hospitalized in September after ingesting 23 magnets told the BBC that her daughter was trying to imitate tongue piercings she had seen in TikTok videos.
Another mother, whose 9-year-old son had to undergo major surgery in September that reportedly resulted in him losing his small bowel, appendix, and a big portion of his large bowel, blamed a TikTok challenge as well, telling the BBC that while he did not have a TikTok account, he had seen videos shared from the platform.
The magnet-swallowing trend has existed for years
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which tracks the safety of consumer products, warned against children and teens placing magnetic balls in their mouths to make fake piercings in a report in 2012 – years before TikTok existed.
“Small magnet balls have been wreaking havoc on the health of children for years,” Hes, the pediatrician, told Insider.
Rumors about the alleged magnet trend follow other purported social media trends that stoke fear online but aren’t truly connected to mainstream social media platforms.
There was also the “blackout challenge,” which involved people choking themselves until they passed out for a few seconds. In July, police attributed the death of a child to the challenge, which they said was a TikTok trend. Although the challenge was real, there was little evidence to suggest that it was specifically popular on that platform.
Similarly, the “Momo Challenge,” which involved a creepy meme that many people thought was popping up across the internet and promoting child suicide. Panic about the meme spread in 2018, but there is no evidence that the challenge ever appeared on social media sites.
There have been dangerous trends linked to TikTok
Even with the history of fake trends online, TikTok does have a history of spawning potentially harmful trends, like the recent milk crate challenge in August where people would try to climb up a tall stack of flimsy milk crates. An expert told Insider that participants could end up with life-threatening injuries.
There was also a health fad in July where TikTok creators stuffed garlic up their nostrils to relieve nasal congestion, which a doctor told Insider could have the reverse effect and irritate the nose.
Unlike those trends, though, there is little evidence to support the idea that TikTok boosted a trend involving people putting magnets in their mouths.