No, Teens Are Not Shooting 'Orbeez Guns' As Part of a Tiktok Challenge

Fears of an "Orbeez Challenge" have spread as police departments across the U.S. issued warnings to parents, but the "challenge" doesn't actually appear to exist.

Orbeez are beads that expand when mixed with water and after multiple incidents of shootings involving guns using Orbeez as bullets, arrests have been made. Police and media reports alike frequently cited an apparent TikTok "Orbeez Challenge" as the cause of the sudden increase in these incidents—yet no challenge is present on the app.

Gel blaster guns, a toy that shoots out small beads, are used in conjunction with Orbeez beads to create makeshift weapons, similar to a BB gun. Although Orbeez are soft, when shot at a high-speed they are able to induce pain and injury. The creators of Orbeez do not make or sell the gel blaster guns that are often used with them. Such guns are dubbed "Orbeez guns" by their users online.

In Volusia County in Florida, a mother was struck by an Orbeez gun while pushing a baby in a stroller up her driveway.

Deputies also reported an Amazon driver being shot at with an Orbeez gun by another individual in a car, who allegedly also shot a 10-year-old. A 19-year-old was arrested and charged with shooting into an occupied vehicle, child abuse and two counts of battery.

"HEADS UP: The 'Orbeez Challenge' can get you in trouble," warned the Volusia Sheriff's Office in a Facebookpost. "Multiple jurisdictions have been receiving reports of people hit by Orbeez gel beads fired from toy blaster guns."

"It's been reported that videos of the 'Orbeez Challenge' have been circulating on TikTok during Spring Break."

Florida's Ocala Police department also warned residents against an "Orbeez Challenge" in a Facebook post.

"There is a dangerous social media trend called the 'Orbeez Challenge' that encourages shooting strangers with Orbeez water beads," wrote the police. "These beads can cause serious injury when fired from an air-powered gun. In many instances, these air guns are painted to resemble real functioning firearms."

Three incidents of Orbeez gun shootings at a high school in February have been reported by police in Utah.

TikTok, however, told Newsweek that Orbeez gun shooting content is not native to TikTok and that such videos are not popular or a common trend on the app.

Videos of an #OrbeezChallenge do exist on TikTok, but rarely feature Orbeez guns, instead showing people harmlessly playing with the water beads in snow and water or freezing them. In fact, Orbeez even created and sell an "Orbeez Challenge Activity Kit" to encourage such videos.

"There are many videos of people using these toy guns among friends. However, we recently received information from FDLE's Florida Fusion Center that multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the country are seeing an influx of calls where people are using toy guns and are shooting gel beads at unsuspecting people. Some of the guns are even painted black and could appear to be real firearms," Ocala Police Department's public information officer explained to Newsweek.

Less harmless content involving "Orbeez guns" does exist on TikTok, but often features friends and family shooting one another in friendly "Orbeez wars," rather than strangers in the street. Videos like this don't appear to be a part of an internet challenge and don't actively encourage others to join in, or shoot strangers. Rarely do any videos like this reach viral level.

The videos use a multitude of hashtags, as noted by Ocala Police to Newsweek: "There are many videos on social media of people shooting these gel beads, some with millions of views and all sorts of hashtags: #splatgun #orbeezgunwar #splatballguns #gelblaster #splatrballwar #splatterball and others."

These videos have long been found online, especially on YouTube, and are not specific to TikTok or any challenge.

Although incidents of random "Orbeez gun" shootings are certainly occurring across the U.S., and notably during spring break, they are not a part of any viral TikTok challenge.