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A deadly online game called The Blue Whale Challenge is something all of us need to watch out for. It is a game that begins by giving challenges to youngsters and ends with the ultimate dare- suicide. It has taken many a life around the world in the last couple of years and now, it seems India has seen its first victim- a 14 year old boy in Andheri, Mumbai. All parents and guardians of youngsters must learn all they can about this dangerous game.
The game was designed by a 22-year old Russian- Philipp Budeikin a psychology student who is now being held in custody for inciting suicides of at least 16 schoolgirls. The Blue Whale Challenge also known as The Blue Whale Dare started in 2013, with Budeikin making online contact with people - usually vulnerable teenagers - so he could decide who would play the game successfully. He would ask people to talk about themselves, Skype them and ask them to watch gory and depressing content online. He would then select people he considered weak enough to be manipulated. After carefully selecting the victims, the administrators of the game assign daily tasks to the players, which they must complete over 50 days. The challenge begins with fairly basic tasks like watching a horror movie, but continually increases in magnitude to tasks such as cutting one's veins, killing an animal and finally suicide. Each task also needs to be photographed or videotaped, so the administrators have proof of completion and authenticity, including the final suicide.The game got its name from one of the first disturbing challenges of the game, where players were asked to draw a blue whale on a piece of paper, and then told to carve the whale onto their body.
An unrepentant Budeikin claims he is only 'cleansing society' as the children killing themselves are 'biological waste'. Children who are lonely, bored and mentally not very strong are the most at risk as they either seek the thrill of challenge or do it out of a need for attention.
Last Saturday, a young Mumbai boy flung himself off the terrace of a high-rise after posting a picture of himself with the chilling caption "Soon the only thing you would be left with is a picture of me." The police are investigating the matter as his friends were found discussing online about his death being linked to the Blue Whale Challenge. Whether his game was directly linked to the game or not, is a matter of investigation. Even if it is not so, the fact that his friends were discussing it, means youngsters are very much aware of this game and who knows, how many of them are about to fall prey to it.
As parents, guardians and educators, it is our duty to keep our children safe. While it is essential to teach them about cyber safety, let us also keep talking to them about not only the physical world they inhabit but also the cyber world they hang out in most of the time. Let them not turn to the predators on the other end of their computer/ mobile phone. Spread as much awareness as you can about this threat to our youngsters and keep a close eye on their online activities. Remember, together we can.