RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A disturbing new trend is showing the more sinister side of social media.
It’s called the “Blue Whale Challenge” and it’s getting kids to hurt themselves and then post pictures and video of them doing it.
The challenge ends with the child taking their own life.
Some kids say the Blue Whale Challenge is just a hoax or a game but for at least two teenagers who have committed suicide, their families are blaming the challenge.
One of those was 15-year old Isaiah Gonzalez from San Antonio, Texas.
He streamed his final moments live on social media.
“We had no signs of anything was going on,” his father, Jorge Gonzalez, said.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The challenge is sought after by kids online.
- The child then finds a “curator” online who will manipulate the child and give them a list of things to do to hurt themselves.
- They then have to post photo or video proof online.
“He also had to post pictures or show proof that he’d done that stuff,” Gonzalez said.
The final challenge is fatal.
“Someone they don’t know is then giving them challenges to do and ‘winning the game’ for most of these, is completing a suicide at the end,” explained Rebecca Wheeler, a senior health educator at the Poe Center in Raleigh.
“The fact that someone would go to those lengths to manipulate a young person is shocking and sickening at the same time,” Wheeler said.
CBS North Carolina asked her what parents need to look for.
She said your child may show signs of depression by taking more risk, using alcohol or drugs, losing interest in their favorite things, or isolating themselves from friends and family.
Wheeler advises that talking to your child about the Blue Whale Challenge may take some age appropriateness but says it’s never too early to talk about online safe behavior.
The challenge has also caught the eye of law enforcement and some school districts across the country.
The Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida made a video warning parents.
“In particular middle school youth and those younger teens are most at risk that doesn’t mean older teenagers wouldn’t be,” Wheeler explained.
She says it’s a form of manipulation that can target any child.
“They want to be liked and they’re feeling like they want to be part of a group. They’re drawing in that sense of community even if that community is to harm them,” Wheeler said.
She says a child’s friends are usually the first line of defense and may notice something is wrong before parents do.
Wheeler says it’s important to talk to your child about how to report when they think a friend is in trouble, or if they see a challenge on social media.
“It can happen to any family and that’s why I’m urging parents to look at their social media,” said Gonzalez.
Police say the challenge has also been called a Sea of Whales, A Silent House, or F-57.
The Poe Center offers training on how to spot warning signs of depression or mental illness.
You can learn more here.
The North Carolina health department offers resources for suicide prevention here.
If you need someone to talk to, the national suicide prevention line is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK(8255)