Let’s face it, the social media world is scary. Especially for parents. We try to protect our children from on-line predators and bullies. We try to educate them about using apps on their phone and appropriate rules for interacting with others. Sometimes we focus so much on them that we forget we must also educate ourselves. Then there are times where we lose focus and forget that our children don’t just need rules and lectures, they need us.

Enter social media challenges. You probably remember some harmless challenges, like the Mannequin Challenge, or the Harlem Shake. Plus, there are awareness-raising challenges, like the 22 Push-Ups (soldier suicide) or the Ice Bucket Challenge (ALS).

Do you also recall the Cinnamon Challenge (swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon without liquids – could result in choking and respiratory problems)? The Salt and Ice Challenge was popular several years ago (put salt on your skin, then hold ice on it, and see how long you can stand the burning sensation – could result  in frostbite or third degree burns). The Choking Game was popular with those wanting a temporary “high” (choke to temporarily cut off oxygen to the brain – could result in death). Then there was the Fire Challenge (pour flammable liquid on self and light it – could result in serious burns or death).

Enter our newest social media challenge. The Blue Whale Challenge. This new craze is so controversial that people can’t even decide if it’s real or not. It allegedly started in Russia, spread to Europe, and has now made it to the Americas. The challenge involves 50 tasks that start off as seemingly harmless (watch a scary movie) and then progressively get more dangerous or intense (carve in your skin, stand on the edge of a high building). These tasks are assigned by a “whale” or curator, and evidence of task completion is sent via social media.

The way to “win” the challenge is by completing suicide. While broadcasting it on social media.

Yes, you read that correctly. To “win” this challenge, you have to kill yourself. As a parent and therapist – geez, as a HUMAN BEING – this is SCARY! What kind of monster gets a kick out of assigning the tasks and then watching someone die?

In San Antonio, 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez completed the game by killing himself. His parents found him hanging in his room, his phone propped up and broadcasting the scene. His is the first confirmed Blue Whale death in the United States. Investigators are also looking into a 16-year-old girl’s suicide in Atlanta.

Don’t assume your children can’t fall victim to this challenge. One journalist in Europe was able to contact a challenge curator. The curator stated once the challenge was started, there was no way out, and stated that if the person tried to get out, “I have all your information, they will come after you” (source: www.higgypop.com/blog/blue-whale-challenge/).

Children and teenagers are subject to impulsivity and emotions. This challenge preys on those traits, as well as becoming a psychological game. The curator grooms the challenger, just like a sexual predator would groom a victim. Things start out small and seem easy. Then they increase just enough to make the person uncomfortable but still seem like “no big deal.” Then they increase again, and again, and again.

Some of the tasks involve getting up at 4:20 am. Allow me to point this out: when you are sleep-deprived, you don’t think as clearly. Sleep also affects your mood and health. You make more impulsive decisions.

In other words, the challenge is DESIGNED to break you down.

Parents, this is your wake-up call! Get your nose out of your phone and pay attention to your children. Don’t be a “friend” to your kids. Be a parent. Be nosy. Be watchful. Be annoyingly in their business. Show them you care. Talk to them. Note changes in their behaviors. Read what they are posting online. Know their friends, and talk with their friends so they are comfortable coming to you if they see any concerning behaviors.

Some people argue that only people who are already suicidal will do the Blue Whale Challenge.

Does that seriously mean we should ignore it? Should we ignore the grooming and psychological games that are being used? Um, no! Those things can work on anyone, but especially on those who have insecurities or doubts or who need attention. I just described most teenagers!

What if it was your kid working towards completing this challenge?

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading