Schools and law enforcement are warning parents about a viral challenge that dares kids to perform ever-increasing harmful behavior. On day 50 of the challenge: suicide.
The Blue Whale Challenge, also called the Blue Whale game and F57 tasks kids with scarier challenges every day, from watching a horror movie to cutting. On the 50th day, the participant is supposed to commit suicide. The game can reach kids through social-media channels like Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube and texting.
A Phoenix elementary school PTO group sent out a Facebook post this week about the social challenge. Phoenix’s Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the same day that parents need to have a conversation with their children so that they “understand that this can have severely tragic consequences,” according to azcentral.com.
- The Baldwin County Public School system in Alabama notified parents in May, saying it may have been introduced to two of its high school campuses.
- A 12-year-old girl’s mother in Mississippi discovered that her daughter’s participation in the “game” from deleted album photos on her cell phone, according to 41 KSHV in Kansas City, Mo.
- The Northern California Vacaville Unified School District this month told parents that you can “never be too careful when it comes to protecting our children” in a Facebook post about the Blue Whale Challenge.
- The Miami Police Department produced a video last week about the online challenge.
Worrisome hoax ?
The “game” has been cited as a hoax, because of the lack of injuries or suicides connected with it. But educators still worry about the game if only because hashtags on social media connected with the Blue Whale Challenge can influence vulnerable teens.
Joronda Montaño of the non-profit organization NotMyKid, which addresses teen challenges including online safety, said parents should start a conversation by asking their children open-ended questions.
“Simply ask, ‘Are there any new games online that you’re hearing about or that you and your friends are playing that are popular on Instagram and Snapchat? Are there any popular challenges?’ Take an inventory first,” Montaño told azcentral.com.
Let middle-school kids lead the discussion, but it’s appropriate to ask older kids directly about the Blue Whale Challenge.
“Then ask, ‘And what about that would I be most concerned about?'” Montaño said.
Parents should also search hashtags like #BlueWhaleChallenge on the social sites their kids use, she said.