Howard County Public Schools issued a letter this week warning parents of a potentially dangerous social media game called the “Blue Whale Challenge” that promotes suicide.
School officials said the 50-day challenge targets young players, encouraging them to participate in tasks that gradually increase in intensity. The last challenge to win the game is to commit suicide.
The game began in Russia but is gaining popularity in the U.S., school officials said.
No incidents of the Blue Whale Challenge have been reported in Howard County, yet the Maryland Center for School Safety released a statement recently saying the game is growing in popularity among teens, with one incident reported in the National Capital Region.
The University of Maryland Center for School Mental Health released the following guidance for parents and guardians this summer:
? Talk to young people about the challenge. If you know someone is engaging in the Blue Whale Challenge, it’s possible that their device may be compromised. Share that you can help with the device and send the message that adults are there to help. If the teens express signs of distress, it’s important to connect them to mental health professionals.
? Monitor use of electronic devices. Discuss the websites, links and social media apps your teen is using. Monitor media use by looking through browsers and search histories.
? Know the warning signs of psychological distress. Observable signs include changes in behavior (e.g. outbursts or being withdrawn) or physical health (e.g. weight loss or gain; loss of appetite), hopelessness, sadness, boredom and depression. If you see signs of distress, ask if they are considering suicide. Asking about suicide does not increase risk of suicide.
? Have discussions with your child about distress. When having conversations with children, listen to their thoughts, remain calm, and be nonjudgmental. Avoid statements like “you should get over it.” Talk to community or school mental health professionals if you are concerned about someone’s health or safety.
? Call for help. If someone makes an immediate threat to hurt or kill themselves, call 911. If a person shows warning signs of distress, but doesn’t make an immediate threat, you can encourage him or her to:
- Call Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center: 410-531-6677
- Call Maryland Suicide Hotline: 1-800-422-0009
- Call National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Text Crisis Text Line at 741741
If you have concerns about the mental or emotional well-being of your child this summer, seek help from a community-based mental health provider or contact the school counselor, school psychologist or other student services staff at your child’s school.