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The Blue Whale Challenge

 An online killer game

Nowadays, a few harmful and dangerous online games have become popular among teenagers and young adults worldwide, who are addicted to excessive video gaming in mobiles and computers. The Blue Whale challenge (also known as Blue Whale game) is one such harmful and dangerous online game, which is being linked to deaths by suicide of scores of teenagers and young adults around the world, including India.

The Blue Whale is reportedly a deadly online challenge game which entails psychologically provoking players (called as challengers) to perform certain dangerous and self-destructive tasks given by the administrators, such as etching a whale on the wrist, causing self harm, waking up at 4:20 am., climbing a crane, carving a specific phrase on the challengers' own hand or arm, doing secret tasks, poking a needle to the arm or leg, standing precariously on a bridge and roof, listening to music, and watching horror and psychic videos sent to the challengers by the administrators for 50 days before finally taking the "winning" step of committing suicide - and each task must be filmed and shared with the administrators as "proof". 

The game goes by many other names such as 'A Sea of Whales' and 'Wake Me Up at 4:20 am'. The game cannot be installed in smart phones via the app store. It can be played via social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook where the administrators get in touch with the participants after those interested throw out postings on social media asking for a "curator". The game takes 50 days to complete. 

On the 50th day, the challengers are supposed to commit suicide by jumping off the roof or hanging themselves. The administrators say that if the challengers commit suicide, they "win" the game, and that if don't, someone will come to help them. 

According to media reports, 22 year-old Russian, Philipp Budeikin, has claimed to have invented the game to cleanse society by provoking people who think they are not worthy of being alive to commit suicide.

The game attracts mostly teenagers and young adults who are more susceptible to online influences, and attempts to create an air of unworthiness and uselessness around them. The game is specially designed to target teenagers who are depressed. It influences kids, teenagers and young adults who are looking for some fun and challenges, but ultimately ends up with death. The victims may have got involved with the game out of curiosity, but find themselves being psychologically manipulated into continuing with the tasks. 

Some reports claim that there is no revocation once the players get into the game as the administrators of the game threaten to harm the players or their families if they try to back out of the game.

This online killer game has been in the news globally in recent times and has witnessed a number of teenagers' suicide cases. The game has reportedly driven many teenagers across the world to harm themselves, before committing suicide. Mainly teenagers from Russia, Ukraine and part of Europe are taking part in this suicide game. According to a report in 'The Sun' on July 31, 2017, the game has been linked to the suicides of around 130 teenagers across Russia alone. 

Recently, cases of alleged Blue Whale suicide have also been reported in India. The first case was reported on July 30, 2017, when a 14-year- old school boy named Manpreet Singh Sahani jumped to death from the seventh floor of a building in Mumbai as a part of this online killer game.

On August 10 this year, a Class VII student in Indore was pulled away before he could take the final leap. A Class X student in West Bengal, allegedly playing the game, committed suicide on August 12 last. As per news reports, a class X student of Guwahati inflicted injuries on himself while playing the online game, and who was admitted to the Gauhati Medical College & Hospital recently with cut marks on his hand. The number of victims of the game in Assam is rising.

The game has attracted the attention of parents as well as authorities across the globe, as almost twenty countries have been affected by the same. Cops and parents of Assam are also concerned with this serious issue. I request all the youngsters: Please don't even think about playing this killer game. Please don't take any interest in playing this game because a huge number of teenagers have committed suicide and harmed themselves. 

It is up to parents to create a positive environment for children so they don't try such a fatal game. Parents, teachers, guardians and members of the civil society, along with the Assam Police, must monitor the children to stay away from this harmful game. Parents and teachers must be available to talk to children and students when they go through vulnerable times. Making children aware of the dangers of the game and media literacy can keep them away from this game. The Assam police have already issued an advisory to the parents and school teachers to monitor the social media activities of the children. 

It is important for parents to monitor their children's internet usage, make note of what they are surfing and the kind of games they are playing, and follow whom they are speaking to. Some of the early noticeable signs and symptoms of addiction to this game are depression, isolation, self-harm, late night and early morning internet surfing, secret chatting, etc. If anyone notices any such suspected children, they should bring him/her to doctors or can report to the Assam police via WhatsApp number 7086055100. 

If the children are seemingly lost, lonely and depressed, the parents and school managements must provide emotional support without judgement and take serious and immediate action to get them involved socially in the real world and divert their minds by providing activities or giving them something new to learn. Parents, guardians, school teachers need to spend more time with children and keep an eye of their daily routine.

Most teenagers of sound mind with a supportive network at home and at school, are unlikely to stumble upon this game. The hysteria surrounding the Blue Whale "suicide game" needs to be re-focused on issues of adolescent depression that invite it. Addressing the root causes of vulnerability of teenagers and young adults and talking to them about such harmful groups and what they contain is perhaps a better form of defence against the Blue Whale game. 

Teenagers, students and young adults need to know how to support each other and who to unconditionally turn for help when required. 

 

(Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar is a practicing doctor in the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital. He can be reached at 9864517168 or by email at drkdharmakanta@yahoo.com)