It’s described as a game, but the Blue Whale Challenge may be more sinister.
Young teens who accept the challenge are encouraged to complete a series of tasks which get more and more dangerous. At the end of the game the player is urged to take their own life in order to “win.”
The Blue Whale suicide game goes by many other names including ‘A Silent House,’ ‘A Sea Of Whales’ and ‘Wake Me Up At 4:20am.’
It takes 50 days to complete and is played primarily via the website VKontakte, which is a popular social network in Russia.
The “game” involves a series of duties given by the administrators that players must complete, usually one per day, some of which involve self-mutilation. Some tasks can be given in advance, while others can be passed on by the administrators on the day, the last task being suicide.
The game was created by Philipp Budeikin, a former psychology student who was expelled from his university.
Blue Whale began in 2013 with “F57”, one of the names of the so-called “death group” within the VKontakte social network. The “game masters” can also reach a young teenager on social media sites other than VKontakt if they endorse certain hashtags and get involved in some “special interest” groups.
Budeikin stated that his purpose was to “clean” the society by pushing to suicide to those he deemed as having no value.
It gets its name from a common belief that blue whales voluntarily beach themselves in order to end their own lives.
The game is attracting teens as young as 12-years-old in Russia and Central Asian countries but recent reports suggest the game could be spreading across Europe and into the UK.
Police in Russia have shut down several of these groups in recent years but say that as soon as one is shut down, another starts up and this has driven them underground.
Police in the UK are also alerting schools and other youth groups to be vigilant.
Parents are likewise urged to ensure they are monitoring their children’s online activities.
Other internet phenomena that are causing concern in relation to the mental health of young people include the Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why”.
The drama has split opinions over its depiction of suicide with some mental groups raising concerns that it glamorises the act.
A range of mental health experts have advised that this series is not suitable viewing for someone depressed or vulnerable to dark thoughts.
Parents should also check their children’s mobile phones to see if they had downloaded an under-18 dating app called Yellow.
It is a teenage dating app which has quickly accumulated some 5,000,000 users and which encourages children and young people to select potential partners through the site. The NSPCC have warned that the use of this app could put young people at risk as there are no checks on the user’s age or identity, so there are concerns that it could be used as a platform for grooming.
With children today having grown up surrounded by technology and social media, there are many more ways in which they can be at risk.
It is important that parents and carers talk to their children about internet safety and ensure that they are using it sensibly.
Likewise schools and youth workers should be vigilant and aware of these potential hazards in the digital world which is so easily accessible to our young people.