This nefarious game also known as A Silent House, A Sea of Whales, F57 or F-57 seems to have originated from Russia. Philipp Budeikin claims to be the inventor of the game who is now in the jail. The game which began in 2013 has a total of 50 tasks to be played within 50 days resulting in the suicide of the player and the proof of completion of task has to be photographed or video graphed as authenticity of completing the task. There are a lot of hype and disarray opinions and thoughts regarding the game. The game has started spreading its wings across India with over six cases reported. This game is grounded on assumptions that the curator sends the victim a link through social media. It is also downloaded from the store and some say it’s a social media phenomenon where the sick and psychos connect targeting the vulnerable victims. The report of UNNICEF’s on blue whale challenge is-
- What is the Blue Whale Challenge and why should parents be concerned about this game?
- The Blue Whale challenge is an online game. The game is named so because sometimes whales beach themselves intentionally and die.
- In this game, an online administrator assigns tasks to its participants. The participants are given a period of 50 days to complete each task. The players are expected to take photos of them undertaking the challenge and upload them as proofs for the curator’s approval. The last challenge is to commit suicide. Players of this game cannot stop playing because they are blackmailed and cyber bullied into completing the game.
- This deadly game has spread all over the globe, and in India there have been reports1 2 of children harming themselves and in a few cases even committing suicides, which are allegedly linked to Blue Whale Challenge. More than six children across India in the age group of 12-19 years have taken their lives allegedly playing this game within a span of two weeks.
- Where can children access this game?
Blue Whale is not a freely downloadable game, application or software. Children cannot access it on their smart phones through app stores or on social media platforms like Facebook. It is shared among secretive groups on social media networks. The creators seek out their players/victims and send them an invitation to join.
- What are the signs in teens that might indicate their inclination towards this game?
Most child psychologists say when a child tends to stay by himself/herself, stops interacting with family and friends, often talks about running away from home or even death, or changes eating and/or sleeping habits must be immediately given special attention. These are the basic symptoms of a child who may be inclined towards participating in this online game. Some relevant links to the signs and symptoms may be found here and here.
The first death in India was reported from Mumbai where a 14 year old Manprêet Sahani committed suicide. His parents said that he showed no sign of depression. A psychologist named Seema Hingorani says, “I am quite convinced that the kid was suffering from deep underlying depression. This made him the perfect victim for a virtual game like Blue Whale, which offers thrill and helped him set aside the sorrows of his real life.”
The participants, who are emotionally vulnerable adolescents, are made to believe through warnings and messages that their backing out would impact the lives of their near and dear ones. As the game progresses, participants reach the final day that supposedly culminates in the act of suicide.  Ministry of Electronics and IT has issued a letter to Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo stating, “Instances of children committing suicide while Blue Whale Challenge have been reported in India…You are hereby requested to ensure that any such link of this deadly game in its own name or similar game is immediately removed from your platform,”. The Gujarat CM said, Officials have been asked to expedite the process to ban the game. If needed, we may also bring an ordinance to ban it. We are totally committed to ban this game in Gujarat, as we cannot allow our children to commit suicide due to this game,” The Haryana Children Protection Commission (HCPC) has issued guidelines for schools to counsel the students. In the 17-point advisory, the HCPC has suggested deploying digital surveillance system in schools, installation of filters, firewalls, monitoring software mechanism, effective use of the internet, among others as preventive measure.  Justices KK Sasidharan and GR Swaminathan of Madras High Court took suo motu notice of the blue whale challenge and issued notice making suggestions to the Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary and state Home Secretary and IT department. It is reported that J and K schools are running special campaign for creating awareness among school students regarding the internet suicide game. Then again the Forensic Science Laboratory issued guidelines to help the Maharashtra police in investigation. The officer said that, “The guideline will have several bullet points before ascertaining the link of suicide with Blue Whale. The police officer who is investigating Blue Whale suicide case should be familiar with its 50 deadly tasks. The officer should initially check if the deceased followed the deadly tasks like carving his/her body with razor, number of social media accounts, whether the deceased has alternative accounts on pay pal, paytm, etc. Also, was the deceased following the tasks given by his/her curator on social media, check the web history of deceased’s gadgets. And if the web history is deleted, police can get it from service provider(s),” The game has started spreading its wings across India with over six cases reported compelling the Fortis Healthcare launching 24 x 7 helpline for psychological support for the teenagers as well as the parents. Anyone going through stress and anxiety can call the helpline number – 8376804102.
In the light of existing scenario, immediate and extreme steps are to be taken. The situation calls for awareness coupled with critical thinking and media literacy. Children are too young to be expected to understand about the dangers they are exposed over social media. The parents and teachers should observe the behavioral symptoms in the child. For instance- If an average person is asked to commit suicide at the end of the game, he/she would not do so but with people with low mental stability. The child’s online activities and access to websites should be monitored by the elders. They should be exposed to counseling to distinguish between right and wrong. They should be taught gadget hygiene and given low end phones only for communication purpose. Likewise if any unusual social behavior is noticed the parents should consult the friends, teachers and a child psychologist.
By Snigdha Panigrahi