Parents warned of dangerous social media challenge - - The News for South Mississippi

Parents warned of dangerous social media challenge

Professionals say parents should closely monitor social media activities. (Photo source: WLOX) Professionals say parents should closely monitor social media activities. (Photo source: WLOX)

Medical professionals are warning parents about a social media game called the Blue Whale Challenge that can result in serious - even deadly - injuries. 

A Gulfport woman discovered discovered how dangerous the game can be. 

Melissa Patton makes it a habit to check her 12-year-old's phone and the images she recently found were shocking. The pictures showed cut marks on her daughter's leg and arm. 

"I looked and I was like, did she screen shot this into make it seem like it was her to fit in," said Patton. "I looked and I could tell by her finger nail polish and by my bathroom floor that it was her."

Along with finding pictures of the cut marks, the concerned mother found a message that said, "You have fulfilled the challenge and you have 49 days remaining."

Angie Fields with Memorial Behavioral Health says the cuts and the message were part of the Blue Whale Challenge. Challengers start with sometimes harmless acts, but then the tasks escalate in danger. 

"The steps of it are systematically progressing in danger," said Memorial Behavioral Health Clinical Manager of Inpatient Services, Angie Fields. "So you try risky behaviors, then dangerous behaviors to the point with the end step that you actually commit suicide." 

Patton is thankful she caught her daughter at the beginning of the challenge, which the pre-teen found through Instagram. Reportedly, the game started in Russia before spreading on social media. After Patton posted a Facebook video explaining her situation, she began receiving messages with similar stories from all over the world. 

"I think it's just a group of people that are preying on vulnerable kids. Kids with anxiety, depression. Kids that are having suicidal thoughts and going, 'Okay, well, play this game you'll feel better,'" Patton said. 

After finding out about the challenge, Patton didn't waste any time checking her daughter into a treatment facility. When she returns home, she'll see her room completely redecorated with pictures and messages designed to make her feel better. 

"Just so if she's having a rough day she can wake up and realize how many people do appreciate her," Patton said. 

While the Blue Whale Challenge has serious consequences, Fields says there are other social media games that parents should be aware of. Patton's case is a clear example of how important it is to communicate with children. 

"There's going to be something that they keep from you, something that they hide, and it's our job to figure out and know so that our kids can come to us and open up to us without having to go through this," Patton said. 

Medical professionals advise parents to talk to children, look for depressive symptoms, watch for changes in behavior, and always ask questions.

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