By all accounts, 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez was a regular kid. The San Antonio, TX, teen had recently joined the ROTC program at his school — following in his veteran father’s footsteps — and was heading into his sophomore year of high school.
But on July 8, Isaiah’s dad, Jorge, found him dead in a closet with a phone nearby that he used to broadcast it.
According to the family, Isaiah showed no signs of depression. Instead, they say Isaiah’s death is the result of a social media “game” targeting teens via Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. It’s called The Blue Whale Challenge.
The challenge is a list of 50 tasks that teens are assigned by the “curator.” They then document them on their phone. The tasks may start off harmless, like not talking to someone for an entire day. But quickly they escalate, with commands to cut themselves. The final task is deadly.
Gonzalez found the documentation on Isaiah’s phone.
“I think to him, it was a joke,” Gonzalez told USA Today. “It wasn’t him trying to commit suicide. I don’t see him doing that.”
WFAA-TV says parents should be aware of three hashtags that signal the game:
The site Heavy.com lists some of the tasks:
- Carve a specific phrase on the person’s own hand or arm.
- Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and watch a scary video (sent by the curator.)
- Make lengthwise cuts on the person’s own arm.
- Draw a whale on a piece of paper
- Write “yes” on the person’s own leg if ready to be a whale. Otherwise, they should cut themselves multiple times.
- Secret task (written in code.)
- Scratch (a message) on the person’s own arm.
- Write a status online about being a whale.
- Overcome a fear.
- Get up at 4:20 and go to the roof.
- Carve a whale on the person’s own hand.
- Watch scary videos all day.
- Listen to music the “curator” sends.
- Cut your lip.
- Poke the person’s own arm/hand with a needle.
- Make yourself hurt or sick.
- Go to a roof and stand on the edge.
- Stand on a bridge.
- Climb a crane.
- At this step, the “curator” somehow checks to see if the participant is trustworthy.
- Talk with a “whale” on Skype.
- Sit down on a roof with legs dangling over the edge.
- Another job that is in code.
- A secret mission
- Meet with a “whale.”
- The “curator” assigns a date that the person will die.
- Visit a railroad.
- Do not talk with anyone all day.
- Give an oath/vow about being a whale
“It could happen to any family. We’re just urging parents, look at your kid’s social media,” Gonzalez said.
While we should not live in constant fear, it’s important that us parents stay vigilant and involved in our children’s lives.