IMPORTANT: "Blue Whale" - The Teen Suicide Game That's Claimed 130+ Lives
Named because of the tendency of Blue Whales to die from beaching themselves, the Blue Whale game is a series of daily challenges, with each day's task being progressively worse, lasting for a period of 50 days. The tasks include self-harming, waking at unusual hours and watching horror movies - but ultimately culminating in the teen being challenged to kill themselves in a variety of ways.
The game, like it's founder, is Russian, and most deaths have been reported there - over 130 to date, however, as social media is global, we must assume that the game is too, and decide how to talk to our kids about this. Thankfully the asshole who created the game was recently arrested - he has so far admitted to inciting 16 teenagers to commit suicide, defending himself by saying he is "cleansing society of biological waste", and that "they wanted to kill themselves".
It can be hard to imagine that such a game could have this effect or that it could impact your own families, but to date, most of the suicide reports are from regular teens from regular homes, and provide a warning to us all that you just never know. To date we know that more than 130 Russian teens have killed themselves, but the game is spreading west quickly.
The game is effective in its goal because it cleverly drives teens to a state of exhaustion and confusion, all whilst being observed and encouraged by their peers in chat rooms. If you have ever seen a documentary about soldiers in training, or about prisoners of war, you will have seen just how effective long periods of sleep deprivation can be. Combine it in this case with the encouragement of sometimes thousands of other kids in the group saying this is ok, this is normal, and it becomes easier to comprehend.
The game's technique can also be its downfall if we are vigilant. The UK's NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) advises to look out for the following signs in our teens:
- become very secretive, especially about what they are doing online
- are spending a lot of time on the internet and social media
- are switching screens on their device when approached
- are withdrawn or angry after using the internet or sending text messages
- have lots of new phone numbers or email addresses on their device
Based on the actions of players who have died, we suggest also looking for:
- searches for blue whale
- posts about the blue whale game on Instagram
- drawings or markings of a blue whale, particularly if its on the body
- uncharacteristically watching horror movies
- messaging with strangers (some teens were brought to the game by being targeted on social sites such as Instagram)
Additionally, we suggest looking for extremes in attitude changes, exhaustion, excessive grumpiness and signs of ongoing sickness. BUT please also try not to overact - many of you will be reading this thinking that is every teen every day. Look for the extreme changes, and try not to jump to conclusions.
Finally, we always advocate communication, and encouragement that if your teen does come and talk to you about something like this, that they won't get into trouble. I know for many it's more comfortable to avoid talking about hard topics, but the online world that our kids live in today exposes them to concepts that they will want to talk about. If it's not with you, it will be someone else, and if games like Blue Whale become normalized through those conversations, then the child is at greater risk of taking part.
(Don't forget to gift the Tap Me Out app to your kids phones, giving them a way out of abad situation).
[Edit #1: Title changes from "130+" to "30+" because of uncertainty about some of the reports. There are stories that point to this game originally being a fake, but the recent arrest validates its existence and real world harm. The number 130 seems more associated with the fake articles, whereas the number 30 is from more official sources.]
[Edit #2: The Independent newspaper in the UK published an article today connecting him to 130 deaths, and as such the headline has been edited back - Russian 'mastermind' behind 'online suicide cult' held by police]