Wednesday, May 29 2024

The expression Blue Whale Challenge evokes a paradisiacal image,
of enormous whales that plow through the waves of the planet’s ocean. It
might seem to be a metaphor of their survival instincts, well represented,
for example, in the movie Big Miracle. Instead, the challenge of the blue
whale (Blue Whale Challenge or Blue Whale), a
role-playing game widespread through social networks, has been a phenomenon
of instigating suicide with great impact on the web and much talked about.

Blue Whale
is a role-playing game for teenagers, in which they must pass 50 tests.
Some seem harmless (“see a horror movie”), others imply self-harm, until
you get to the last ‘challenge’: “Throw yourself from the highest building,
take your life.” Blue Whale takes its name from the groundless
assumption that whale beaching is due to their decision to commit suicide.

At the moment of initial contact, he who guides the actions of those who
accept the challenges becomes known as a ‘guide’ or ‘mentor.’ To access the
tests of this game you do not need to have a particular computer program or
a specific application on the phone: the information is available on the
Internet. Therefore, the web itself is– to some extent – responsible for
its spreading.

Some social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter have created
procedures to inform and warn about this type of game.

Before the Blue Whale Challenge

To raise the awareness of the danger it was a research

NetFamilyNews.org

, which proves how at the beginning it was treated as a false alarm and
then, thanks to the online communication process, acquired credibility.

The information available so far on Blue Whale indicates that
there is no definitive proof of the direct and exclusive relationship with
the suicides to which it is linked. Despite this, as reported by

IS4K

, the
Internet Security Center for Children in Spain, “there is the possibility
that the spread of these news could have influenced and put young people in
critical situations and have helped along the development of the game.”

Blue Whale
was born in a Russian social network (VKontakte), where a group of users,
under the name of “F57”, promoted this sort of activity. The alarm sounded
on May 2016 when a Russian newspaper, reporting about the spike in suicides
in the country, denounced that users such as “F57” and games like Blue Whale were part of the cause. Philipp Budeikin, a 21-year-old
Russian boy, takes credit for the start up of the game. Some media outlets
reported “that he was using the game to instigate people with mental
problems.” Speaking about these people, Budeikin called them “biological
waste” and said that his intention was “to clean up society.” Whether or
not his intention was that, the authorities initially related him to the
death of 16 teenagers. In the end, he was sentenced to three years and four
months of imprisonment for the failed suicide attempt of two young people.

Repercussions

Surveys such as those carried out for Safer Internet Center de Bulgaria
indicate that there is no overwhelming evidence on the relationship between
some suicides and the game that went viral. However, the suicides in
question capture media interest and cause concern from families, scholars,
and organizations. The sensationalism of some media outlets and the
imprudence of the users of social networks, which merely resonate with
these facts without confronting credible sources, are the cause of a
disproportionate alarmism.


The World Health Organization

reveals that around 800,000 people around the world commit suicide every
year. This is an estimate coming out from data official sources. Suicide is
the second greatest cause of death of young people between the ages of 15
and 29. A good percentage of the cases can be attributed to additional
factors such as mental disorders, “in particular disorders related to
depression and alcohol consumption.” The WHO adds: “Furthermore,
relationships marked by conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, loss, and
feelings of isolation are closely connected with suicidal behavior.”
Finally, it points out: “The main indicator of suicide risk is a previous
suicide attempt.”

Recommendations

The recommendations of the organizations that deal with these problems
include: communicating, supervising, not propagating, and reporting are
necessary actions to prevent the spreading of harmful contents.

Communication. It is the most sensible policy to prevent the participation
of teenagers and young people in this sort of game. Communication amongst
family members is key because all members feel considered and understood in
their needs. One of the family priorities should be to improve the
frequency of its inner communication, its quality and the attention to the
emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of the children.

Supervision. Curiosity is typical of young people and the Internet offers
an infinite number of possibilities to satisfy it. Supervising does not
necessarily mean restricting, even if sometimes it is appropriate. It is
essential to know the contents that children and adolescents search for on
the Internet, what pages they visit, the technological tools they use, in
order to guide web navigation, and to know if they are prepared to make
adequate and immediate decisions when set before negative content. We must
help them to acquire “cyber-virtues”

Don’t spread it. Alerting other users is advisable, but it can be done
without entering information that could contribute to divulging what is
harmful. Furthermore, it’s necessary to know how to choose the appropriate
channel with which to inform contacts on the web. On the other hand, it is
convenient to forward messages issued by those who have the authority to do
so: the police, Red Cross, organizations dealing with the protection of
minors, experts, or means of communication that guarantee the verification
of data and of the information they publish. In any case, the diffusion of
images that do not help to inform or have a sensationalist purpose must be
avoided.

Report and denounce. The most active participation that Internet users can
make is to report and denounce the existence of accounts with this type of
content. It is the most appropriate way for messages to be intercepted and
their creators identified.

Blue Whale
is not the only ‘game’ created by unscrupulous people who find cyberspace
the proper place to gain followers among the most vulnerable people.

All this highlights the complexity of social networks, the consequences of
the viral spreading of unverified information and the need not to lower our
guard in educating on the responsible use of the Internet, especially
amongst teenagers and kids.

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