A 13-year-old girl has been in the hospital for over two weeks after suffering third-degree burns while apparently attempting to imitate a video she saw on social media, said her family, who are speaking out in case they can help prevent it from happening to someone else.
Destini Crane, of Portland, Oregon, severely burned her neck and right arm and has had to undergo three skin-grafting surgeries after her family believes she was trying to copy a video on the popular video app TikTok.
The incident happened on May 13 in their home’s bathroom, her sister, Andrea Crane, told ABC News. Destini is currently unable to speak to tell them what happened. But based on what they found in the bathroom and after talking to her friends, they believe the seventh grader — who “lived for TikToks,” her mother said — was trying to copy a TikTok video in which someone draws a shape using a flammable liquid on a mirror and then lights it on fire.
Destini brought into the bathroom a candle, lighter and bottle of rubbing alcohol, which they believe exploded in the poorly ventilated space, setting her and other items on fire, her sister said. When they retrieved Destini’s phone, TikTok was still recording video, her mother, Kimberly Crane, told ABC News.
“I was in the living room talking with my mom, and I heard her scream my name,” Kimberly Crane recalled. “So I went and opened the bathroom door and everything was on fire. Destini was on fire. Things in the bathroom were on fire.”
Kimberly Crane brought her daughter outside and ultimately pulled her burning shirt off, she said. A neighbor had called 911.
Destini has been in the intensive care unit ever since, and her family is hoping she will be able to move to the burn unit soon for further care. She will likely need several more months to recover, including inpatient rehabilitation to regain use of her arm and mobility in her neck, shoulders and fingers, her sister said.
“Because of the burns she’s going to have limited mobility,” Andrea Crane said. “That is just going to be a lifelong thing, of her doing physical therapy to keep her mobility.”
Destini has been on pain medication, her family said, and they believe she knows she is in the hospital but doesn’t fully comprehend what happened to her.
“I know that when she wakes up and fully understands, she’s probably going to freak out,” her mother said. “But honestly I think that she’s strong enough to get through it.”
The family has said their church and Destini’s school have been supportive since the incident happened. Andrea Crane, a student at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, has also moved back home to help care for her sister, who loves to skateboard and play the online game Roblox.
“We’ve always been our unit,” she said. “Being in Monmouth just wasn’t an option for me, with wanting to be here and my family needing me.”
The two are sharing their story to hopefully encourage other families to be more present in children’s social media use.
“I just wasn’t present with her,” Andrea Crane said. “When she showed me TikToks and when she showed me what she was doing, I would be like, ‘Oh I’m busy,’ or, ‘I’m doing schoolwork.'”
“It’s really important to be present with your children, because we can monitor them, we have parental controls, we can do all that all we want, but things slip through,” she said. “And so it’s really important to be present with your children and have that transparency of, ‘Hey what are you into what? What are you doing right now?'”
The minimum age for TikTok is 13, according to the app’s terms of service.
The children’s online safety organization Internet Matters advises that teens “may be tempted to take risks to get more of a following or likes on a video so it’s important to talk about what they share.”
Common Sense Media recommends that parents share an account with kids over 13 so they can “keep an eye on what your kid is viewing and posting.”
Parents can limit content that may not be appropriate for all users by enabling the “restricted mode” in the account.
The safety of younger teens in our community is our priority, and we want to empower families to have an open dialogue about digital safety – including through our Youth Portal, Guardian’s Guide, and Family Pairing features, which enable parents to set age-appropriate content and screentime limits,” a spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. “We take our responsibility seriously as we continue to evolve our policies, apply warning labels to videos, block hashtags or redirect searches, and invest heavily in our people and technology to help keep our community safe.”
Amid reports of the so-called skull-breaker challenge last year, a prank that left some children with severe injuries, TikTok said in a post to its newsroom that “we do not allow content that encourages or replicates dangerous challenges that might lead to injury.”
“More importantly, we encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off,” the company said. “Nobody wants their friends or family to get hurt filming a video or trying a stunt.”