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The dreaded Blue Whale challenge is making parents across the world extremely aggrieved with so many young children killing themselves in the pursuit to complete this 50-level challenge. Recently, Blue Whale claimed the life of a 14-year-old boy from Mumbai who jumped off a building while completing the challenge. Then a 16-year-old boy from Kerala died while playing Blue Whale. There have been several instances where players of this game have been stopped by their friends at the very nth moment before they could take their own lives. While the Blue Whale Challenge continues to shock us with suicides of young children, it shows no signs of dying. One look at various social media forums and you will know how much this game seems to be flourishing. There are even hashtags like #curatorfindme and #f57 on social media that kids are using to covertly communicate with the admins of this deadly game.
For many of us, the Blue Whale Challenge is completely unfathomable. I mean, how can anybody commit dangerous, downright stupid acts, and finally KILL themselves to win (?!) a game? How does a game like the Blue Whale Challenge become so addictive? And most importantly, what should parents of young vulnerable children do to keep them safe from such heinous activities? What measures need to be taken other than simply telling kids not to play such games or monitoring their online activity? We have got Dr Samir Parikh, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare to help us out with queries on the Blue Whale Challenge.
Understanding the psyche of kids who play Blue Whale
Dr Parikh rightly points out that adolescent and formative years are marked by social problems like vulnerability, peer pressure, isolation and the common grouse, 'people don't understand me.' "When children join the Blue Whale Challenge they feel like they are being recognized. They feel like they have a new support system which comprises people who welcome you into their group, praise you when you complete tasks and reward you. The 'high' that kids get with such feelings of inclusiveness is something they have never experienced before," the doctor explains.
What should parents and teachers do if they come to know a child is playing the Blue Whale Challenge?
What should teachers and parents do in such a case? Only online monitoring may not be possible since there are so many avenues of social media engagement. Cutting off accessibility can work temporarily but what should one do in the long run?
Dr Parikh says that it is important to encourage children to ask the right questions when they come across something online -- who are they doing the tasks for? Who will benefit out of this? What am I doing? is it right or wrong? What are the contradictory views? Should I run it by somebody else before doing this task?
According to the doctor, media literacy is very crucial. "Educational institutions need to invest in media literacy and there should be censorship or blocking from media outlets. Parents, too, must create a platform where children feel safe to come and talk to you. Parents should provide them with space, recognize individuality, be sensitive to their needs, not compare with other kids etc. Schools need to start group discussions to bring out queries and insecurities that students have in their minds. Regular dialogue and discussion are important and if things fail to improve, parents will need to approach an expert," the doctor says.
Watch the video above for more information on how you can deal with someone who is playing the Blue Whale Challenge.
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