LAUSD draft letter warns parents of deadly online 'Blue Whale Challenge'
LOS ANGELES, CA (FOX 11) - The Los Angeles Unified School District is warning parents about the 'Blue Whale Challenge', a social media challenge that encourages people to commit suicide.
The challenge is being blamed for the suicide of a 15-year-old boy in San Antonio on Saturday. Isaiah Gonzalez's family says they found him hanging in a closet with his phone propped up recording and broadcasting. When his phone was searched, family members say they discovered he was taking part in the challenge.
The Blue Whale Challenge pushes people to complete a series of tasks over a span of 50 days, with each task becoming more intense. Examples of tasks include self mutilation, dangerous stunts, and watching horror movies.
The participants are monitored by an anonymous taskmaster and are encouraged to commit suicide at the end of the challenge.
The challenge reportedly originated in Russia, and there are unconfirmed reports that its responsible for the suicides of over 100 people in Europe.
The LAUSD confirmed to FOX 11 they are aware of the challenge, and the district provided a draft letter they plan to send to parents to warn them about the challenge. The letter informs parents that the Blue Whale Challenge is also referred to as A Silent House and Wake Me Up at 4:20 a.m.
"The Blue Whale Challenge to me is a very scary thing to have to think about," said Dr. David Swanson, a clinical psychologist. "The only way to complete the game, the only way, is to kill yourself. If you're a kid who has anxiety or has depression, and you're not sure how to act out on this and suicide is one of those things you're considering, to have an audience or to have people involved in a game who encourage you to do this, it only makes it easier."
People FOX 11 spoke with on Wednesday said they had never heard about the challenge.
"It's shocking, I'm not surprised, if it has anything to do with social media im not surprised," said Dwayne Garner, a probation officer at Northridge Middle School. "This is great information I can pass on not only to my kids but also their parents regarding this issue as well."
"It's pretty horrible, I don't know why anyone would want to do that to themselves, it's ridiculous, said Dexter Stark, a high school quarterback.
Unfortunately, Dr. Swanson told FOX 11 he doesn't see the challenge going away anytime soon.
"This is something I think is gonna spread, you have a lot of kids who are disturbed, a lot of kids who don't have a great relationship with their parents, they don't openly communicate about a divorce, about bullying, and they find support online."
Dr. Swanson advises that parents try to keep an open line of communication with their kids, and monitor their usage of social media.
LAPD tells FOX 11 this is their first time hearing of the challenge, and a spokeswoman was shocked at the premise of the game.
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