With summer break here, children and teens have more free time to explore, learn and grow; but the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) asks parents to be mindful and keep a vigilant watch over social media apps and games on their children’s phones and devices. There are some unhealthy “games” reportedly present in our community, some involving forms of aggression, bullying or threats.
Among these is the "Blue Whale Challenge," as well as copycat versions, that have recently been reported to local school personnel here in Fairfax County.
These “games” reportedly target children between ages 10-14 and encourage them to complete a series of progressively more intense tasks over a 50-day period, including self-harm and, finally, suicide.
While many reports indicate that this “game” is a hoax; it is more important than ever for families to increase their digital literacy and do their research on such potentially deadly “games” children may be invited to “play.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people in Virginia between ages 15-34 and the third leading cause of death for ages 10-14.
The CSB urges adults to:
- Talk to your children about responsible cyber safety.
- Check phones or other devices for signs of a hashtag or communication with anyone telling your children to do specific tasks.
- Discuss websites, links and social media apps your child is using.
- Know warnings of psychological distress. Signs may include changes in behavior (e.g. outbursts or being withdrawn) or physical health (e.g. weight loss or gain; loss of appetite), hopelessness, sadness, boredom and depression.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.
- Be aware of suicide prevention information and resources.
“It is crucial for children and teens to talk with adults about issues that make them feel uncomfortable; they must be assured that they don’t have to face any issues alone,” said Jane Woods, CSB Board Member and co-Chair of the regional Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia (SPAN).
Be aware of mental health resources available to students and families throughout the summer:
- FCPS School Counseling Services at 571-423-4420
- School Psychology Services at 571-423-4250
- School Social Work Services at 571-423-4300
- PRS CrisisLink Hotline at 703-527-4077, or text "CONNECT" to 855-11 (available 24/7)
- Merrifield Emergency Services 703-573-5679 (available 24/7)
- CSB Entry and Referral during business hours at 703-383-8500.
Contact for news media inquiries: CSB Communications Team, 703-324-7000.