The Charlie Charlie game: Keep your child away from it
Parents, you must read this article about the disturbing social media phenomenon that's sweeping across schools around the world, including Singapore. Let's collectively keep our kids safe!
It was the first week of June and the first day of project work for my son. He and his friend were in the school canteen when they heard a shriek of terror reverberating through the canteen, followed by sobs.
My son moved closer and saw several students huddled together, around something. When he fought through the crowd, he saw a classmate of his looking terrified. When my son asked him what was happening, another schoolmate said that they were playing the “Charlie Charlie” game.
He learned that “Charlie” was a Mexican demon. In this game, when a question is asked from “Charlie”, a pencil placed on a sheet of paper moved all by itself and pointed at “Yes” or “No” written on the paper. The problem now was that “Charlie” was not allowing the group to stop playing, and that was the reason for the hysteria. My son walked off from the scene, refusing to believe any of it.
An hour later, things worsened. More students were crying, some were experiencing stomach aches and others even left the school out of fright. The situation got so out of hand that the vice-principal had to call for everyone to assemble in the hall.
Once the students were in the hall, he first calmed everyone down and said that whatever that happened was explainable through science and was not caused by any Mexican demon. Then, he ordered that no one was to play such games anymore.
Seeing some students were still shaken, he asked everyone who was still feeling scared to stay back to have a talk with him. My son was surprised to see that nearly half the students in the hall moved to talk to him. Luckily, in the end, the atmosphere of fear dissipated.
This is a first-hand account from a Singaporean mum of her child’s recent experience of the latest social media craze that is sweeping schools across the world — known as the “CharlieCharlieChallenge” or Charlie Charlie game.
What is the Charlie Charlie game?
According to the Daily Mail, this “game” first came to light in the Dominican Republic when four high school students were taken to the emergency room screaming and crying in terror. Doctors could not find anything wrong with them and diagnosed a case of “mass hysteria”.
What had reportedly happened was that these kids tried to summon a “Mexican demon” by balancing two pencils on a piece of paper, with “yes” and “no” written alternatively on the corners of the paper. When “Charlie” was asked a question, the pencils turned by themselves, pointing at the “answer”.
Reports say that the children who took part in this game had “appeared with inexplicable bruises on their bodies” and of course, signs of hysteria.
Now, this disturbing game has turned into a social media sensation among hundreds of teens around the world, as evidenced by the massive stream of Vine and YouTube videos of the experience being tweeted from all corners of the globe. Many of these videos show kids asking “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?'” and then fleeing in terror when the pencil appears to move by itself.
What’s really dangerous is that the Charlie Charlie game has now turned into a “challenge” among tweens and teens to “summon” Charlie, via various social media channels and platforms.
On the next page, find out the perfectly rational scientific explanation behind this phenomenon. Find tips as well if you think your child might be involved in such “games” and online challenges.
According to reports, scientists have an explanation for this seemingly supernatural phenomenon — and it involves simple gravity and behaviour known as “response expectancy”. What this means is that people will try to move the pencil through their movement or breathing without even realising it, because they are so engrossed in the moment.
The Daily Mail quotes Christopher French — the head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at the University of London — as saying, “Trying to balance one pencil upon another results in a very unstable system. Even the slightest [draft] or someone’s breath will cause the top pencil to move… and the precariously placed pencils will move around regardless of whether you summon a demon after balancing them.”
Tips for parents: Keeping your kids safe
As your kids grow older, it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor them in your effort to protect them. But there are a few things you can keep in mind, especially when it comes to social media and Internet usage, which is how the “Charlie Charlie” phenomenon is currently spreading.
- Keep yourself up-to-date with the various social media platforms popular among kids these days
- Talk to your child about responsible online behaviour and practice online safety
- If your child has his own computer, set the most restrictive privacy settings available
- Allow computer use in common areas only
- Do not hesitate to monitor your child’s social media and other online usage. Tell him upfront that you will be doing this
- Periodically check your child’s mobile phone as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat
John Low, who has taught in local schools and is currently the Managing Director of EduMatters, also has some valuable advice for parents when it comes to watching out for signs that their kids might be getting involved in “games” such as Charlie Charlie.
- Look out for a sudden interest in magic. Observe your kids to see if they are interested in the science behind it, or if they are excited by a supernatural explanation to it
- Take note if your kids start to make their own game boards or buy unusual toys. They may also start to treasure a certain item like a special coin or a special bowl
- Some supernatural “games” like Charlie Charlie might require special chants, therefore you might see your child putting unusual effort into memorising certain phrases
- Most of the time, these activities are done in the night or in dark places, so keep an eye out for any unusual behaviour from your kids accordingly
Parents, also ensure from a young age that you maintain open communication channels with your child always. This way, when your child enters his tween and teen years, it’s highly likely that he will still approach you if he’s facing any problems at school or elsewhere.
If you are not available, encourage your child to report any concerns to another trusted adult and get to know the parents of your child’s close friends. Parents, also look out for unusual signs in your child such as a sudden change in personality or behaviour, or late night phone calls or Internet usage.
It’s also wise to stay abreast of social media phenomena such as the Charlie Charlie game, and talk to your child about the dangers of getting involved in such trends.
Parents, share your thoughts about the Charlie Charlie game and what you think we can do to protect our kids from it by posting a comment below.