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Quebec school officials warning parents about disturbing TikTok challenge

FILE - The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen which displays the TikTok home screen, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File) FILE - The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen which displays the TikTok home screen, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Warning: some viewers may find details in this story disturbing.

School officials in Quebec are warning parents about a disturbing challenge circulating on social media that incites youth to take their own lives in a bid to receive flowers on Valentine's Day.

The challenge is spreading on the popular TikTok app, according to letters that went out on Tuesday.

The Eastern Townships School Board said in its letter that it was important to warn parents immediately since TikTok users are urged to take action on Feb. 13.

"Our intention is not to alarm you but simply to make you aware of the existence of this challenge so that you can be vigilant about any unusual behavior in your child or teenager," the letter states.

The board is encouraging parents to talk to their kids about their mental health and their social media consumption, and to watch for any warning signs that they might be in distress, such as isolation, anger outbursts, frequent crying and changes in internet habit.

"Some may downplay the impacts of such a challenge, but our school board prefers to act in prevention and awareness," wrote Emmanuelle Gaudet, a school board director, in the letter.

Instead of banning the use of social media apps, the head of the school board wants to take a more education approach to inform students and their parents about what's going, said chairperson Michael Murray.

"You can never take these things too lightly," he said in an interview.

"There's a risk and we try to make the tone of our communication calm and reassuring but to give information to parents who might not know this circulating on social media."

Such challenges on social media are part of the reality that students in the digital age face, he said.

"The kids are on social media, they will be on a different social media and so we have to teach them to use their brains in a way that protects them from the negative consequences that certain actions would entail. As an educational institution, we are focused on getting the people the information they need in order to deal with what they face each and every day," Murray said.

The board recommends parents take certain steps, including:

  • Listen without judging
  • Ensure that suicide is not an option
  • Promote positive problem-solving attitudes

The Marie-Victorin school service centre, on Montreal South Shore, sent a similar notice to parents.

"It's a challenge in very bad taste," read the notice, which also urges parents to talk with their children if they observe any unusual behaviour.

Here is a list of mental health resources in Quebec

If ever you need help, don't hesitate to reach out to:

Your family doctor (if you have one)
Call Info-Social 811 to get help or information regarding your mental health or the mental health of a family member or friend.

Call the 911 emergency service if you fear for your safety or the safety of a family member or friend or to obtain immediate assistance.

Call or text the 988 suicide crisis helpline when in crisis, or when they know someone is in a crisis, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, free of charge.

Find a crisis centre (in French only) near you to obtain free specialized crisis intervention services for you or a loved one.

If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Top Stories

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