Reports of a new fad among schoolchildren called the “Blue Whale Challenge” have prompted Northern California schools to warn parents of possible risks for self-harm and suicide.
It’s reportedly an online game in which youngsters are assigned a series of challenges, initially innocuous but later risky or dangerous, that are to be completed over the course of 50 days, according to the knowyourmeme.com website. The final challenge reportedly dares the participant to win the game by committing suicide.
The title is said to refer to whales that beach themselves and die.
The Vacaville Unified School District on Wednesday warned parents of the Blue Whale Challenge.
“We can never be too careful when it comes to protecting our children,” says the district’s message. “A dangerous ‘game’ surfaced on social media a while back, particularly with students in other countries. The game is being talked about by students in our schools.”
The message, also posted to the district’s Facebook page, attributes the game to an app that may no longer be available.
However, it’s not entirely clear the Blue Whale Challenge actually exists – at least, not as an online game or app.
The game was first reported in February by a Russian news site that claimed it has been linked to 130 teen suicides there, and stories on the challenge have since spread to other sites and news outlets, with The Sun calling it a “sick trend” and a “twisted suicide challenge.”
Some YouTube.com videos purporting to explain or demonstrate the game have been removed, while others show teens engaging in risky behaviors attributed to the challenge.
But no direct evidence for the existence of an actual game or verified links to teen suicides has been found, and Snopes.com has labeled the story unproven.
According to Snopes.com, the confusion may stem from reports of a murky “blue whale” social media fad among Russian teens, possibly related to the death of a teen who posted her photo on social media before taking her life, although the fad also has not conclusively been linked to any deaths.