A 17-year-old teenage girl from Russia has been arrested by the Russian police authorities on the last day of August 2017 to end what has been a turbulent month for parents from around the world. She is allegedly the brainchild behind the most dangerous online game ever made - the Blue Whale. The game has prompted 'teen suicides' at an alarming rate the world over. India too hasn't been spared. The union government recently directed online platforms including Google, Facebook and WhatsApp to remove links to the deadly game following a series of media reports about teenagers in India committing suicide to complete the challenge.
Worried over the increase in suicide cases among children that were linked to the challenge and the availability of dangerous games like Blue Whale on the Internet, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has decided to ban the game. It all started with news reports of a 14-year-old boy committing suicide in Mumbai. Police suspected he was a victim of the online suicide game. After that, there were reports of suicides by teenagers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. To top it all, last week, there was a report suggesting Kolkata topped Blue Whale searches globally. Alarming situation indeed.
What pushes children to get involved in such dangerous situations? Teenage depression and self-harm are a worrying trend. The growing sense of low self-worth among adolescents will have devastating consequences on society. Peer pressure can be a tricky thing -- the urge among teenagers to conform and do things because all their other friends are doing it, can have a major influence on their decisions.
Children who are low in confidence and self-worth may feel the need to fit in to a group or be part of an activity, even though it is unsafe. This makes them vulnerable to dangerous behaviour, which in this case is the suicide challenge. Parents play a major part in instilling self-esteem in their children and their interactions with them can either boost their confidence or make them rebel.
Mental health experts say that teenagers should be reassured by parents that it is okay not to fall prey to the pressures of their peers and take part in challenge like Blue Whale.
What is Blue Whale?
The Blue Whale is a social media group and the fatal game, Blue Whale Challenge was first started on a hugely popular networking site in Russia. It is supposed to have been invented by a 22-year-old who is now serving time in prison. Reports mention that more than 100 children in that country have fallen prey to this dangerous game,which has now slowly spread to other parts of the world. Just a click on social networking sites will lead you to thousands of posts about the game and many youngsters are seen posting graphic pictures of self-harm as part of this game.
According to news reports, this game dares teenagers to complete daily tasks including doing harm to themselves, watching horror movies and finally when they complete 50 days, to commit suicide. The challenge made headlines when a schoolgirl in Russia jumped off a high-rise after posting pictures on a social network site of herself and her friend on the edge of the building. Parents in Mumbai are shocked at how an online game can have such drastic repercussions.
What Parents Can Do
Rose Sunderraj, Counsellor at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore gives some tips on helping children avoid such behaviour -
- Monitor their online behaviour without being negative or pushy.
- Listen to your child. Look out for messages in their words that may have a hidden or deeper meaning.
- Have a normal conversation about online behaviour and usage just like you would talk to them about school.
- Build a positive connection and try to understand their point of view.
- Treat them with affection and respect. Instill confidence instead of putting benchmarks.
How to Identify A Troubled Child
- They may be overly critical of themselves or sensitive to criticism
- Lack courage to speak up for themselves
- A willingness to please
- Have feelings of helplessness and guilt
- Show lack of interest in daily activities
Tips on saying NO to peer pressure
Childline UK (www.childline.uk.org) gives some important pointers to teenagers, regarding this incident, on not succumbing to peer pressure --
- Say NO with confidence. Be assertive. Practise saying 'no' so that it's easier when someone asks. Avoid situations which feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You could explain that you're going to pay for something instead of stealing it.
- Try not to judge them. By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.
- Spend time with friends who can say 'no.' It takes confidence to say no to your friends. You could try seeing how your other friends stand up to peer pressure and you can try this too.
- Suggest something else to do. If you don't feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, why not suggest something you could do instead.