Because parents don't have enough to worry about, both in the virtual and real worlds, a warning is now circulating about an online dare that could spur kids to engage in self-harm. Massachusetts' Sun Chronicle reports that school officials there emailed parents last week about the "Blue Whale Challenge," a "game" shared through social media that allegedly puts kids in touch with "an anonymous curator," who then eggs users to complete a series of challenges over 50 days. USA Today documented it in May: It often starts with a fairly innocuous task—watching a horror movie, perhaps—and moves on to increasingly dangerous ones, such as cutting, before finally asking the participants to kill themselves on the 50th day. Per the Washington Post, school districts nationwide are addressing the murky challenge, though some people claim it's just a hoax to scare parents.
The challenge is said to circulate via popular online mediums such as texting, Snapchat, and Instagram. Although some say deaths caused by the game are just urban legend—the Sun Chronicle says it's "unclear" if the challenge has been tied to actual deaths—the Post notes the apparent recent suicide of 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez, whose family says he was a Blue Whale victim. A teen in Atlanta also took her own life after participating in the challenge, her family tells CNN. Police and school officials say the game preys on vulnerable youth, and some are fighting back by saturating #BlueWhaleChallenge hashtags with warnings. Per the Sun Chronicle, one school superintendent says parents should check out their kids' social media accounts for related hashtags or pics of blue whales, noting they need to be "policing [their kids' online] environment." (Read more social media stories.)