What is the Blue Whale Challenge?
The game has been claimed to have started in Russia and has been incriminated in teenage suicides in Russia and Europe. It is an online social media group where you may not be able to download the game from a play store but have to be invited to play the game. The group administrator assigns daily tasks that one must complete in a 50-day period. These range from watching horror movies and waking up at unusual hours to engaging in self-injurious behaviour. The tasks get more extreme and difficult as the days pass. On the 50th and final day, the administrator instructs the players to attempt and commit suicide. There are reports that those who want to back out on the last day are threatened that their family members will be hurt if they don’t abide by the game rules. There is no exit from the game.
The biggest fear is that since it is an online entity and spread over the internet, it can be accessed from anywhere. Reports have accounted the spreading of this game to the USA, Europe, UK and now even India. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are probable platforms where the administrator gets in touch with the participant after those interested throw out postings on social media asking for a curator.
What we can do about it
1. Parents need to constantly maintain healthy and open conversations with their children about various aspects of internet use, video game use and the rational use and dangers of the same.
2. Parents need to constantly monitor what their children are doing online. They need to be aware of the internet; they need to know what games their children play, who they chat with and also be aware of various social media sites that their children post on.
3. They must explain to children the difference between a virtual video game world and the real world and that the two do not coalesce or meet. There is a need for youngsters to realize the difference between the two and also understand that while they play an online game for enjoyment, the game is an artificial world and cannot become a reality.
4. Very often teenagers try to emulate in reality what happens in an online game and there is a need for a clear mental distinction between the real and the virtual world.
5. Youngsters may express unfulfilled needs and emotions via a game they play and the character they imbibe while playing these games. Parents need to understand the games their children play and speak to them about the online characters they assume and why they do so. If the child expresses unfulfilled desires and emotions via these characters (avatars) and games, one must try to help the child fulfil those needs in real life rather than in the virtual world.
- What institutions can do to address the Blue Whale Challenge problem
Dr Avinash De Sousa is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist based in Mumbai. He is the Founder of the Global Society for Digital Psychology and the Founder-Trustee of the Desousa Foundation.