Sask. school divisions warn parents about risky social media game

After a word of caution from the RCMP, some school divisions in Saskatchewan have warned parents about the "Blue Whale Challenge," an allegedly dangerous social media game.

It's still not clear if Blue Whale Challenge is an urban legend or a deadly game

The 'Blue Whale Challenge' is allegedly an online game in which people are coaxed into completing a series of challenges, while documenting their progress on social media with whale-oriented hashtags. (Dimitri Otis/Getty Images)

The "Blue Whale Challenge" could be an urban legend, or it could be a deadly game.

It's allegedly a social media activity that puts people through a series of progressively risky tasks — the final being suicide.

The game is on the radar of the RCMP, and now some Saskatchewan school divisions have warned parents about it. 

However, there's no still no evidence that the game exists, at least not in Canada. 

"If it is an urban legend, I'm grateful, but I have to recognize that the RCMP know a lot about what's going on in our world," said Kevin Garinger, director of the Horizon School Division and the Englefeld Protestant Separate School Division.

He sent a cautionary memo out to parents in those divisions, which serve about 6,500 students, and they told him their kids already knew about it. Horizon School Division MemoMobile users: View the document
Horizon School Division Memo (PDF KB)
Horizon School Division Memo (Text KB)
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"It didn't surprise me that our students were very aware of this game, he said. "I just found out from parents that, in fact, kids were talking about it. And then the question becomes: are parents aware of it?"

The Good Spirit School Division also sent out a similar memo on the challenge that allegedly originated in Eastern Europe. Good Spirit School Division MemoMobile users: View the document
Good Spirit School Division Memo (PDF KB)
Good Spirit School Division Memo (Text KB)
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RCMP said there aren't any known complaints, concerns or ongoing investigations regarding the "Blue Whale Challenge" in Saskatchewan at this time, and no Canadian suicides have been linked to the game.

Garinger was first alerted by the Wakaw RCMP detachment, which got the information from a federal RCMP bulletin.

"I had no issue at all, to be honest with you, that this might be something like an urban legend, he said. 

"I'm going to do whatever I need to do to keep our children safe."

Donna Bowyer thinks parents should hear about the game, even if it doesn't exist. 

"It's prudent for parents to be prepared for this game, or another game down the line that may happen," said Bowyer, director of training for the Canadian Mental Health Association Saskatchewan branch.

She hasn't heard of this challenge, but has heard of online groups and games that turn into "how-tos" on self-harm.

Bowyer said parents should talk with their children about games and groups that exist online, and added that that conversation isn't likely to expose kids to something they don't know.

"They seem to know things much faster than we do, so just because they may not be talking to you about it doesn't mean they're not already aware of it."

The Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention advises that if you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them.

Mental health resources are available throughout the province with the Healthline at 811. 

with files from Amelia Machhour