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'Technology today is a downfall': Father of boy who died from TikTok 'Benadryl challenge' speaks out

Image Courtesy ABC13 Houston / YouTube (screenshot)

The father of a 13-year-old who died doing a TikTok challenge is warning parents about technology use for children and perceptions of social media that parents may have.

Justin Stevens, father of the Ohio boy who died attempting the "Benadryl challenge," spoke to Fox News after burying his son. The boy was declared brain-dead and taken off life support by family, he told the outlet. The online dare consisted of taking six times the recommended dose of the allergy drug to allegedly produce hallucinations.

"He had no idea what he was doing.… He was just a kid. He made a bad decision," Stevens said.

Stevens described his son's phone usage as having a "lifeline," denying access to his father when he tried to see what was on it.

"Any time that I ever tried to get into his phone, he would just set up the passcode or something … and he would hold to it that he was not letting me into his phone, so then I'd just take the phone," Stevens explained. "I believe technology today is a downfall. What ever happened to playing with Matchbox cars in the mud pile on the side of the house all day and every day?"

The father criticized the TikTok app and said that he assumed it was kid-friendly and displayed content such as "a funny person that's singing a song."

"They sit back and make billions and billions of dollars," he complained, "and I can't even wake up and say hello to my kid any more, you know?"

Dianna Stevens, the boy's grandmother, previously told Fox News that the teenager started spending more and more time on his phone and was very "curious." She said that he spent increasing amounts of time watching videos on YouTube and TikTok, as well.

A spokesperson for TikTok responded to the tragedy and said the company's "deepest sympathies go out to the family."

"At TikTok, we strictly prohibit and remove content that promotes dangerous behavior with the safety of our community as a priority. We have never seen this type of content trend on our platform and have blocked searches for years to help discourage copycat behavior," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the app does not "permit users to share content depicting, promoting, normalizing or glorifying dangerous acts that may lead to serious injury or death."

Stevens warned parents to take things slow and noted that Benadryl is still available for over-the-counter purchase.

"I've said it over and over and over. As parents, we live in a fast-paced environment. Everybody is moving a hundred miles an hour. I would just say slow down. Once they're gone, they're gone."

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