Blue Whale suicides: Awareness, cyber counselling in schools, and a lot more in needed

First Published 21, Sep 2017, 9:02 AM IST
Blue whale resurfaces simply banning the game is no solution here is what is needed
Highlights
  • Dr Manoj Kumar of NIMHANS) Bengaluru, tells us “There is the need for awareness among children and parents about these type of harmful games.
  • Schools should have cyber counselling as a part of the curriculum.
  • Another factor that we don't usually talk about is cyber counselling. Schools should have cyber counselling as a part of the curriculum.

The incidents related to the deadly Blue whale game have been on the rise. From the 14-year old Mumbai boy to the 20 students in Belgaum, the game pops up each time we hope it has died down. 

The Ministry of Electronics and IT had asked social sites, Google, Yahoo and others to ban the game. However, even after the ban, it is said to be lurking in other forms and comes disguised as A Silent House, A Sea of Whales and Wake Me Up at 4:20 AM, among others possibly. So, one thing is clear, banning the game is  essential, but let's not consider it as a solution to get rid of the menace. When a link is blocked and banned, another will surface. So along with banning these links as and when they surface, we need to look at a broader solution to save our children.

While it was believed that the game targets 14 to 18 year old, the latest incidents have revealed how pre-teens, teens and even those over 18 years have fallen prey to the game.

It targets teens and pre-teens by the way of showing off bravado, and if that stops working, then by inciting fear. Either way, the weak/vulnerable minds fall prey to the game. The 50 days challenges begin with asking to draw blue whale on their wrists with some sharp object, watching horror movies at night, waking up at odd hours, staying isolated from family, and eventually killing oneself is the ultimate challenge. 

Created by a 22-year-old Russian is now behind the bars. However, many others decided to take it forward. For instance, a 17-year-old Russian girl was recently arrested for being the mastermind behind the recent incidents who threatened to kill victims and their families if they quit the game. 

Interestingly, the girl played the game, but didn't kill herself and rather took it upon herself to become the admin and incite others to commit suicide. The police found a lot evidence from her apartment including horrendous drawings with wrists cut, and a portrait of the inventor of the game. 

So, it is quite likely that the game's creator has influenced some to take it forward in the future. There have been games like Pink Whale trying to combat such things, which is appreciated, but may not be a solution either.

Among the solutions could be awareness and some frank discussions with your kids. It is only schools and parents that play a big role. The Belgaum teacher who noticed the wrist cuts instantly informed the principle and the parents, and the students have been sent for professional guidance. However, at time, the guidance could be too late. Like we saw in the case of Kerala boy

According to Dr Manoj Kumar of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, awareness among children and parents about these type of harmful games is required. And, awareness will come only with good communication between parents and children as well as school authorities and children, which would also mean talking about other lifestyle issues. 

Two teen suicides in Kerala bring the deadly Blue Whale Challenge game under spotlight. Though the Kerala Police hasn’t confirmed the deaths are linked to the game, it cannot be completely denied owing to the revelations made by one of the boy's mother. 

From a 14-year-old in Mumbai to Class 10 student in Bengal, the incidents of teen suicides over the deadly Blue Whale Game have been increasing. And, it is worrisome.  The incidents are giving rise to many anxious questions. What is this deadly game and why would someone build it? Is it an app? How to know my child is playing the game? How to stop kids from playing it? Why isn't the game banned if it is that harmful?

The Ministry of Electronics and IT had asked social sites, Google, Yahoo and others to ban the game. However, even after the ban, it is said to be lurking in other forms and comes disguised as A Silent House, A Sea of Whales and Wake Me Up at 4:20 AM, among others possibly. That calls for better measures to handle this online menace. Before we get to that, let’s understand what this Blue whale game is. 

Blue Whale Challenge is a game that mostly targets 14 to 18 year-olds. The game was developed by a Russian developer in the form of an app. But, the app has been removed from stores, and the 22-year-old developer is behind the bars. But, that hasn't stopped the game from entering other regions. 
The game essentially is all about so-called 'bravado', if we may say so. Series of challenges are thrown at the player for over 50 days, and after one challenge is completed, they have to move on to the other. The photo circulating online showing a Blue Whale carved on one's hand, waking up at weird timing, watching horror movies are believed to be some of the challenges. But, the ultimate challenge is to kill oneself.

According to this report, the gamers attract children via social media groups. They then try to figure out who is most affected by psychological manipulation. Many leave the game as challenges get difficult, but there are always some who stay back and go right till the end. 

While banning the game still doesn't guarantee that it won't come back in another form, there is a bigger role here that schools and parents can play to curb it. 
According to Dr Manoj Kumar of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, “There is the need for awareness among children and parents about these type of harmful games. And, awareness will come only with good communication between parents and children as well as school authorities and children, which would also mean talking about other lifestyle issues. “

“Children involving in such games could be due to peer pressure or curiosity," he tells us. "So, it also depends upon the psychological variables. Some children are dependent, some are extrovert, and according to the personality types, the outcomes vary," he added. This also explains why last-minute counselling helps some, while it may not help others. 

Schools should take on the agenda of teaching students in the form of lectures and communication that should help build resonance when it comes to tackling extreme situations. This will help children to say 'no' to such games and likewise.

Now, this doesn't mean parents and school should be judgemental about everything seen online. On the other hand, it is important to explain teens about the dangers too."There should be open and good communication over what's happening and a check on their mental health and behaviour," he explains further. 

This is a new-age problem, and also shows how the euphoria from physical activities is slowly shifting to online activities. So, it is important for schools as well as family to promote other physical activities. 

Another factor that we don't usually talk about is cyber counselling. Schools should have cyber counselling as a part of the curriculum, as that is what the digital age education requires. It should involve everything from cyber crimes, malicious minds online on social media, clicking on wrong links, online bullying, and other cyber crimes. They need to be taught about cyber crimes and its effects, how not to reveal private details online including email ids, address and family bank details, stay away from scams and so on. 

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