Schools in north Cumbria have sent out warnings to parents, after concerns some children may be targeted by administrators of cyberbullying social media accounts.
Cumbria Safeguarding Hub has alerted the schools to say some young people have been messaged directly inviting them to participate in ‘The Blue Whale Challenge’.
The challenge first appeared online in 2016 and encourages teenagers, in particular girls, to undergo a series of 50 challenges that culminate in committing suicide.
Tasks are given online or through text messages, instant messages or posts on Instagram and Twitter. Some younger children are also being targeted through a social media platform called ‘Discord’.
Refusal to comply with the tasks can be met with threats by the administrators to release personal information on the young people that they claim to have.
Steve Milledge, designated safeguarding lead at Cockermouth School, said: “We think it is very important that schools, parents and young people communicate well and share information about online threats and dangers.
“We have had very positive feedback from parents who have found this information from the police and Cumbria Safeguarding Children’s Board helpful.”
Signs to look out for include: children receiving messages or posts relating to Jonathan Galindo, a man that may also be seen with his face painted like Mickey Mouse or a dog; receiving or making references to #f57, #f40 or #IMaWhale; extreme changes to their eating or sleeping habits; wearing long-sleeved loose clothing to disguise any self-harm marks or taking photographs of activities and sending them to accounts that parents do not recognise.
Some of these signs may not be linked with the challenge, but could still be a cause for concern.
A spokesman for Cumbria County Council said: “The recent social media posts by local schools are in response to a small number of reports of the challenge being shared again in other parts of the county.
“The information and advice provided to schools has been developed in partnership with Cumbria Police and the Cumbria Safeguarding Children’s Board and is intended to enable schools to provide appropriate advice and guidance to families and the wider school community. Schools will make their own decisions about how and where to distribute this information.”
If people believe any child is at risk of significant harm, they are urged to contact their school and, if necessary, Cumbria Children’s Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727 or the police on 101 or 999.