TikTok has become a breeding ground for what many see as destructive social media challenges in the last year, and the latest trend involving toy guns that fire water beads, or Orbeez, is no exception.
Water gel pellets known as Orbeez are propelled by a spring-loaded air pump mechanism in the SplatRBall and other similar non-lethal guns. According to Akron police, teens firing such a gun sparked a confrontation that resulted in the death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming on Thursday night. Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett did not specifically mention the TikTok-popular Orbeez Challenge, but he did say toy guns are a concern while holding a SplatRBall box during a press conference.
What exactly is the #OrbeezChallenge?
Many TikTok posts with the hashtag #OrbeezChallenge feature people having fun with small gel balls. However, among those videos are posts of people shooting each other with gel balls or airsoft guns loaded with Orbeez balls. Orbeez is squishy, but when shot from an airsoft gun, it can cause injury. Because the gel balls are basically water pellets, some people have frozen them to make the impact more painful.
What exactly is a gel gun?
The toys, also known as water pellet guns, gel blasters, or splatter ball guns, shoot water beads sold under a variety of brand names. Orbeez is a type of superabsorbent polymer. When dry, they are small, but when soaked in water, they can grow to be 100 to 300 times their original size. Orbeez has multiple applications and was not designed to be projectile at first. They are also used in science toys, foot spas, and potted plants to slowly release water.
However, a simple Amazon search now yields dozens of different blasters to choose from. Most are priced between $40 and $100. Orbeez is advertising a new playset product on TikTok based on the Orbeez Challenge, oblivious to the negative turn the viral trend has taken.
Is this happening in places other than Akron?
Cities across the country are concerned about safety as a result of the Orbeez Challenge. In addition to the injuries caused by the Orbeez, the trend may cause fear or panic because some of the gel guns may be mistaken for real firearms.
After shooting a school bus carrying middle school students in Mason, Ohio, two teenagers were arrested and charged with inducing panic. Police departments across the country are warning residents about the challenge’s potential dangers. Some cities, such as Dayton, Kentucky, have begun to prohibit the use of toy guns in the new trend.