Tucson boy badly burned when social media challenge goes horribly wrong

Mother pleading with community to talk with their children about the dangerous stunts
Tiffany Roper said her young son Corey suffered second- and third-degree burns while doing the TikTok fire challenge.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:44 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 2:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - A Tucson mother is pleading with the community after she said her son was severely burned while doing a TikTok challenge.

Tiffany Roper is the mother of two young children and she never thought one of them would be fighting for their lives because of something learned online.

Just 10 days after Corey Lee’s 12th birthday his natural curiosity became his mother’s worst nightmare.

“It’s called the fire challenge,” Roper said.

The challenge has been making its way across social media, causing multiple teens to be hurt and severely burned.

The goal of the challenge is for teens to create a fireball by using either an aerosol can or rubbing alcohol all while catching their reactions on video.

“It looks like he put the rubbing alcohol in his left hand and lit it with his right not realizing how quickly rubbing alcohol burns off,” Roper said.

Corey’s polyester shirt caught fire, causing painful second and third-degree burns all over his body.

“I woke up to just a blood-curdling scream,” Roper said. “I just see my son on fire. I flooded my kitchen because I took the hose and just sprayed him down as quickly as I could.”

Roper describes Corey as a typical boy, who loves playing with his pets and being active. She said pressure from social media is hurting children in more ways than imagined, leading to this tragic accident.

“He is very much a boy, boy. He is very much an outside boy,” Roper said. “He wants to be outside playing.”

In the past, the social media platform has faced major backlash and several lawsuits. Some experts claim the app is targeting kids by pushing specific content to users.

“It’s 100% targeted at kids because they don’t know those limits, they don’t know those boundaries,” Roper said. “It’s like no matter how hard you try to protect them this cruel world creeps in.”

Roper understands people asking “how or why” this could have happened.

She said it’s important to remember kids will be kids and often don’t realize the danger they are putting themselves in. Roper believes social media adds a whole other level of pressure.

Even though it’s a touchy subject, Roper is encouraging parents to talk with their children about the dangers. She said one child being hurt by this challenge is one too many.

“At the end of the day, as parents, we have to pick those battles and say ‘you need to see this,’” Roper said. “You need to see what the consequences of this action are.”

Dominick Miserandino, a social media expert and founder of “The Celebrity Cafe,” agrees.

According to Miserandino, parents need to talk with their children especially since social media platforms have so many hidden corners. He said adding filters, parental controls and monitoring can only go so far.

“We are in the Wild West,” Miserandino said. “That is also where I would encourage viewers to report things of this concern. Take advantage of that. Bring it to their light and say this is of concern and hitting that report button is useful.”

Roper is begging every social media user, young and old, to report anything they find inappropriate. She believes reporting videos can go a long way.

“Hug your babies,” Roper said. “If you see something say something because even though it may not be affecting you. It might save somebody else.”

Roper said Corey is doing well considering the situation. Roper said he had his third surgery, on Monday, Sept. 4.

Roper said her son is a fighter but still has a long road to recovery ahead.

The family has set up a GoFundMe Page where the community is able to donate. You can donate HERE.