The recent news of the suicide of the Mumbai boy who jumped to his death in his Andheri home, at first glance, seemed like just another suicide. But what it brought to light was a macabre and morbid dare that has just claimed its first Indian victim. And it’s called the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ or the ‘Blue Whale Dare’.
The fatal challenge, which in a lot of ways reminds me of the Michael Douglas and Sean Penn-starrer Hollywood flick ‘The Game’, in which the wealthy banker Michael Douglas participates in a mysterious game that sends his life into a tailspin. Of course, while the game in The Game was in reality just a game, the Blue Whale Challenge is certainly not a game!
So, then what is it?
Well, in the Blue Whale Challenge — which is an online dare — the participants have to complete a series of challenges that are given to them. These challenges, while innocuous and innocent in the beginning, slowly start getting more sinister. Hence, while the dare may begin with a simple challenge involving watching a horror movie, the participant would then be egged on to inflict self-harm, which ultimately ends in their taking their own lives.
Thus, over a period of 50 days, the participants must document their progress (if you can actually call it that) which finally culminates into the participant taking his or her very own life and committing suicide.
While there are a few who are calling the game a hoax, this “alleged” death game began in Russia in 2013, claiming its first victim in 2015. Philipp Budeikin, a former psychology student, not only claimed to be the creator behind this online game, he also plead guilty to inciting 16 teenage girls to commit suicide. His “so-called” purpose: to “clean” out the society by weeding out worthless people! [Note: This menace, in fact, is the reason why Russia decided to pass a suicide prevention legislation.]
The recent suicide committed by the first Indian victim of the blue whale challenge is a wake-up call for all of us. For the simple reason that what the Blue Whale Challenge has highlighted is what we have known all along. That it is of utmost importance that parents and schools teach young impressionably (and vulnerable) teens about responsible and safe internet behaviour.
While the internet is a strong medium of information, not all information available on the internet is good. In fact, for that reason, the internet is like any other power: it may be used for good as well as for evil. While on the one hand, it can make information available at the stroke of a key, on the other hand, a simple keystroke is enough to destroy a person’s life.
Thus, it is important that we realise that the internet is a double-edged sword that we need to protect our children from. While we are certainly not advocating paranoia, it is becoming increasingly important to spend time with our children so that they understand the risks that these devices pose. So, that there are no more human victims to the blue whale challenge!