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The 'Orbeez Challenge' is causing harm in parts of Georgia and Florida, police warn

The Sheriff of Volusia County, Fla., shared an image of a toy gel blaster gun collected from a 19-year-old who shot an Amazon driver in Deltona with Orbeez balls.
Sheriff of Volusia County, Fla., Twitter page
The Sheriff of Volusia County, Fla., shared an image of a toy gel blaster gun collected from a 19-year-old who shot an Amazon driver in Deltona with Orbeez balls.

Updated March 17, 2022 at 1:41 PM ET

There has been the Tide Pods challenge, the Kylie Jenner lip challenge and the cinnamon challenge.

Now, it's the Orbeez Challenge.

The latest viral social media trend is gaining traction on TikTok and has police across the U.S. warning their communities of the potential dangers. Like the viral challenges before it, police say people are getting hurt from the innocuous-sounding Orbeez Challenge.

Police in Fernandina Beach, Fla., shared on Facebook that the new trend is influencing people to shoot the soft gel Orbeez balls at citizens with a gel-ball gun or an airsoft gun.

TikTok posts using #OrbeezChallenge show people playing with the small gel balls. But in other posts, people share videos of themselves shooting others with a gun filled with Orbeez balls.

On the Orbeez website, the manufacturer is advertising a new playset product based off the Orbeez Challenge on TikTok — it seems unaware of the negative turn the viral trend has taken.

Spin Master, the manufacturer of Orbeez, told NPR in a statement, "Children's product safety is paramount at Spin Master, and we are committed to providing children and their families with the highest quality toys, games and activities. Spin Master does not manufacture or sell gel guns."

It went on to say, "Orbeez are designed for educational, creative, and sensory play and are not intended to be used as projectiles or inserted in mechanisms."

Police in Fernandina Beach said in their post that shooting Orbeez balls "could cause injury if striking a person at a high speed or in a sensitive area such as the eyes. This 'trend' also has the potential to cause fear or panic in that some of these gel blaster guns could be mistaken for an actual firearm."

The challenge has resulted in serious charges

Police have also warned that these incidents can bring serious criminal charges for the people involved in these shootings, who may think what they're doing is a game.

Elsewhere in Florida, police shared on Wednesday that deputies arrested a 19-year-old in Deltona who shot at an Amazon delivery driver, hitting his glasses and neck — all while he was driving.

The same shooter involved in that case also shot another random adult and a 10-year-old child in the face and chest. Deputies identified and arrested the suspect, charging him with shooting into an occupied vehicle, child abuse and two counts of battery, according to the sheriff of Florida's Volusia County.

Police in Deltona also reported that other teens in the city were going on an Orbeez-shooting spree that same day. According to the Volusia County sheriff, two people were hit by pellets fired from a van that took off after the shooting. This same van was involved with the shooting of a man trimming trees. The pellets broke the skin and left red welts.

Deputies tracked down the van and charged an 18-year-old and two 17-year-olds with battery. The 18-year-old was also charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In a separate incident in the same city, several kids shooting the gel pellets at each other were involved in a car crash, the sheriff's office added.

Police are trying to get ahead of the incidents

In Peachtree City, Ga., police said the Orbeez Challenge has already gotten out of hand in their community.

Police shared on Facebook that one child riding his bike was hit and bloodied after local teens shot at him with a gel-ball gun. Peachtree City police said these teens somehow modified the gel beads to inflict even more harm. Images of the boy show his bloodied face and small ball-like red marks on his torso after getting hit.

"As you can see from the attached photos from an incident [Monday] on the cart path, these can be very painful and can cause permanent injury," the department wrote.

The Peachtree City Police Department said it is pursuing criminal charges against anyone caught firing the guns at another person on city property.

"In some cases, it could result in felony charges and parents could also be liable for the actions of their kids," the department said. "Even just shooting these on city property (not at another person) is a violation of city ordinance."

Police in Peachtree City, Ga., shared images on Facebook of a young boy who was hit by modified Orbeez balls while riding his bike.
/ Peachtree City Police Department
/
Peachtree City Police Department
Police in Peachtree City, Ga., shared images on Facebook of a boy who was hit by modified Orbeez balls while riding his bike.

Police in Fernandina Beach said two reported incidents of teens in their community firing these guns luckily ended with no one getting hurt. But, they added, parents must be aware of the trend to potentially stop their children from hurting someone else.

"We share this information so that parents can be aware of this trend and if your teen has a gel blaster gun we encourage you to discuss the potential dangers of this new trend," they said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.