JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – School districts are trying to bring an end to the viral TikTok trend called the “Orbeez Challenge.”
There have been two reported Orbeez incidents in Duval County schools, and one student is now facing a battery charge.
The Duval County School Police Department and Columbia County School District have both issued warnings about the serious consequences of the social media challenge, which encourages people to shoot each other and strangers with Orbeez.
Orbeez is a specific brand for water beads, similar in size and shape to airsoft BBs, and the toy guns used to shoot them. Now, those are becoming a big issue in Northeast Florida schools.
“One, you can actually hurt someone with it. Two, that gun could be mistaken for a real gun,” Greg Burton, chief of the Duval County School Police Department.
Bringing prohibited items like guns -- even fake ones -- can lead to school discipline, as well as criminal charges.
The Duval County school district sent out two alerts this week.
“This is not just a prank to us,” Burton said. “A child could be mistaken for a person that is an active shooter and then of course it ends in a disastrous situation.”
The Columbia County School District released a statement earlier Wednesday, also warning parents “to help put an end to this trend by reminding students of the dangerous consequences and to keep the toy gun out of school.”
But why has this trend taken off more than others?
Psychologist Dr. Steven Cuffe, chair of psychology at the University of Florida’s Jacksonville campus, says it’s not surprising, as social media plays a big role in teen culture.
“The part of the brain that’s inhibitory that will stop them from doing foolish things and from making poor judgments isn’t mature until sometime ages 22 and 25. Car rentals have known that for a long time,” Cuffe said.
Cuffe encourages parents not to give teens too much freedom online. He says it’s important to have an idea about the kind of content they’re watching.