The TikTok Orbeez challenge has been linked to injuries and death, and has parents fearing for how this growing trend will play out.
TikTok is known for its outlandish and sometimes dangerous challenges. Children and teens on the popular social media platform are more vulnerable to peer pressure or likely to join in for fun. While this is usually not life-threatening, the Orbeez challenge is a new dare that parents, schools, and even police are warning can lead to serious injuries and even sparked the death of one student.
So what is the Orbeez challenge, and what are Orbeez themselves? Orbeez balls are little squishy water balls that fit into Orbeez toy guns. These are a modern take on water pistols but resemble real rifles and shoot the balls like paintball guns. The Orbeez challenge is a new TikTok trend that encourages kids to carry out drive-by-shootings using these toys.
While it is meant to be silly and fun, some people take this act seriously. This was the case with 17-year-old Ethan Liming who was beaten to death after he and some friends took the Orbeez challenge and shot their water gel guns at some basketball players outside of the Lebron James-founded I Promise School. Although this incident was isolated, police in other areas have warned about injuring people’s eyes and vulnerable targets with this challenge.
Parents and school officials are also terrified about the Orbeez challenge because it encourages drive-by-shootings. This act is connected to gun violence and can easily mislead police to fire on innocent teens if mistaken. The guns themselves look like real rifles, unlike nerf guns or other toy guns that are clearly distinguished as toys with bright colors and childlike patterns.
As the Orbeez challenge grows in popularity, many are once again questioning the nature of toy guns. For years parents and community leaders have debated over whether giving children toy guns is a good idea. While opponents claim that they encourage gun violence and lead children to think they can play with real weapons, proponents note that water pistols and nerf guns have been standard toys for generations without causing developmental harm and can even be used to help teach children gun safety.
As the argument goes on, the Orbeez challenge continues. Many teens will play with the water gel guns without incident, and the single-related death was not a result of the gun itself, but an assault carried out by individuals who chose to take offense at a game. That form of violence is not uncommon nor has it been only sparked by this new challenge. Like paintball guns, these toys may need to be relegated to sports complexes and special recreational areas to ensure that public harm does not increase, but that is at the discretion of each area’s needs.
For now, the Orbeez challenge has not led to mass injuries or deaths. It has merely been connected to one isolated tragedy despite gaining popularity for months. Regardless, parents and schools are concerned about the uptick in incidents fearful that it will affect the coming school year. Those who wish to prepare need to discuss the situation with their children and lay some ground rules if they allow them to participate in this game.