The Blue Whale Challenge seems to have come ashore in the US, as a number of reports and rumours circulate about teens being induced to self harm rise. Though there seems to be a couple of confirmed cases, making the connection between the game and particular events has been problematic. Despite the widespread media coverage, the Blue Whale Challenge is still seen as unproven by Snopes, and more than a few people are skeptical of the size and scale of the game.
The skepticism comes from the strange way the game is played. Players who want to start playing begin by posting signaling tags in their social media. So far most reports cite Instagram or Twitter as the point of entry, but it is unknown how many other ways there may be to join. Within social media, the player’s pleas are picked up by “curators” who will begin to send instructions about a series of tasks which must be completed daily in a challenge over 50 days. The last of these challenges is suicide.
The looseness and lack of defined format is exactly makes this game so difficult to combat; there’s not necessarily a single entity or group responsible for carrying out the role of “curator.” Although the man thought to be responsible for the creation of the game in Russia has been arrested, anyone with an interest in harming others can reach out to those who have posted that they would like to play.
Watch for the tags: #curatorfindme #bluewhalechallenge #bluewhale #f57 #F58 #wakemeupat420
Unfortunately, Blue Whale Challenge is not the first game of its kind. The Slenderman epidemic is another harrowing example of how youngsters will believe what they read online, and how it can influence them to commit horrifying crimes as a result. In 2014, a stabbing by two US teenage girls of their class mate was reported and directly linked to the Slenderman. The teenagers, unable to realize that the online stories were purely fictional, felt they had to offer their classmate as a sacrifice to the Slenderman so that he would not kill their families.
Even without games or other online stories, we’re seeing more and more disturbing cases of people taking their own lives, or the lives of others, while live streaming on applications such as Snapchat or Facebook. This is the alarming reality of the world we live in today where many cannot decode between online and real life.
So what can you do to protect young people in your care?
It’s important not to jump to any conclusions, but to use the resources you have to analyze whether a child is at risk. It’s crucial to be aware of the kinds of places kids are going online, and to have some way of monitoring behavior. It is also important for local authorities and schools to ensure they have appropriate systems in place to block access to not only the Blue Whale Challenge, but other threats on the horizon. Search term filtering and Safeguarding are helpful to both stop potentially harmful searches and create a behavioral history to see other related activity.
Rarely do warnings exist in isolation, as often there are several warning signs present in those who need help. It is important to be present and observant of children and teens’ behavior offline as well as online. If you’d like to talk in more detail about how Smoothwall can protect children against Blue Whale Challenge, please contact us today.