Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

Ghoulish online game urges young people to end their lives

Blue Whale players are set a number of tasks such as self-harming Image Blue Whale players are set a number of tasks such as self-harming
Melinda Barton | 13 July, 2017, 07:30

He had used a shoe to prop up his phone in order to broadcast his death.

Isaiah Gonzalez's family members believe his death was a direct result to of "The Blue Whale Challenge".

Although the linkage between the "Blue Whale Challenge" and teen suicide has been unclear, Gonzalez's death has caused many parents and school administrators to become alarmed about the social media-based trend.

Online reports say the challenge takes place on a smartphone app, which has since been removed, and that it also can contact users through other social media outlets including YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

Jorge Gonzales encourages parents to communicate with their children about the "Blue Whale Challenge" and to check their phones and social media to learn what they're doing.

His sister told the station that someone behind the challenge had gathered personal information from Isaiah.

According to CNN, an unnamed 16-year-old Atlanta, Ga., girl's recent suicide has also been linked to the Blue Whale Challenge.

Two families in the US believe the game is to blame for their children's recent suicides and are now warning other parents to monitor their teens' social media activity.

The Baldwin County Public School System in Alabama told parents that those behind the game "threaten the teenagers with harm to their families or releasing of personal information until they kill themselves". But the game's final challenge is fatal-to complete the game, participants are asked to commit suicide. Many parents and other authorities are skeptical that the game actually exists, citing a lack of suicides directly attributed to it.

"Added Isaiah's sister Scarlett Cantu-Gonzalez, "[His friends] blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, one of them could have called us, he would have been alive [today]".

In order to participate in the "game", online users posted on social media asking for a "curator", according to the Washington Post. Participants are expected to post photos or videos of themselves performing the challenges. It is believed to have originated in Russian Federation, with multiple suspected coordinators targeting children and teenagers on the VKontakte social network.

After that, the players are coerced into becoming addicted to the "game" before sending them the order to committing suicide.

Isaiah told his father that he had heard of it, but would never participate.

The student said the manipulation was so deeply psychological that it was hard to say no.

Agent Michelle Lee of the FBI's San Antonio office said the agency is not assisting in the investigation, but urged parents to monitor their children's online activities. Two possible creators of the challenge were arrested in June.

"Only in reading more and researching more about the Blue Whale Challenge did it make sense, the way he was acting that last couple days of his life", he said. Over the years a number of online games have preyed on the their vulnerabilities.

Isaiah's funeral is planned for Thursday.