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04 May 2017

What is the horrifying Blue Whale game and how can you protect youngsters from the tragic ending

Blue Whale is the name of a twisted online social media game that is making it’s way to the UK following popularity in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Also known as ‘A Sea of Whales’ and ‘A Silent House’, the ‘game’ entices young people to take part in a number of sinister challenges, which are instructed by an online administrator, also known as the ‘master’, over a 50 day period. These challenges become more extreme as they approach the final day, where they are then urged to commit suicide in order to win the game. Up to 130 suicides amongst teenagers in Russia have been linked to the Blue Whale game and there are fears that the game is now surfacing in the UK. Police have been warning local authorities and schools about the threat of the game and to look out for youngsters who may be at risk.

With the rise of social media and live streaming, and the ever evolving need for online gratification, games such as these play into the hands of impressionable young people and also make it difficult to stop spreading due to the global reach social media has. Children with existing mental health problems or those who are struggling with issues such as bullying or abuse will often turn to the internet as an escape, but it makes them more susceptible to online manipulation such as games like Blue Whale and also grooming or further abuse.

Blue Whale has been meticulously curated to appeal to young people who are seeking fulfillment, gratification or sometimes even friendship, as it gives you regular interaction with another person online and also offers rewards for successful completion of the challenges. The online administrator of Blue Whale will build trust with the users, verbally rewarding them for their performance, before setting the final challenge of taking their own lives. It’s unclear who is running Blue Whale or why anyone would want to encourage such a crime.

Unfortunately, Blue Whale is not the first game of it’s kind. The Slenderman epidemic in the US is a harrowing example of how youngsters will believe what they read online and can be influenced to commit horrifying crimes as a result. Sites such as ‘CreepyPasta’ play host to a number of sick and terrifying stories, that young people are unable to decipher between fact and fiction, and draw these impressionable minds into a blurred view of reality. In 2014, a stabbing by two US teenage girls of their class mate was reported, and was directly linked to the Slenderman. The teenage girls felt they had to offer their classmate as a sacrifice to the Slenderman so that he wouldn’t kill their families, and were unable to realise that the online stories were purely fictional.

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, whilst live streaming on applications such as Facebook. This is the alarming reality of the world we live in today where many cannot decode between real life and online.

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 analyse whether a child is at risk.

A noticeable difference in behaviour, such as withdrawal from social activities or acting anxious can be a warning sign that a child could be experiencing some form of abuse. Signs of self harm also begin to link behaviours to those of the challenges through Blue Whale. Luckily, most children who are dragged into playing the game are often disturbed by the thought of taking their own life, and will send out a cry for help before doing so. This gives an opportunity to save the child before it’s too late and thankfully there have been a number of reported cases where intervention has occurred in time to stop the suicide.

It’s also important for local authorities and schools to ensure they have appropriate systems in place to block access to not only Blue Whale but other similar sites. Using a filtering solution such as Smoothwall will allow you to control whether young people in your care can access such content, and allow you to place controls on social media use. This is important due to social media being used as the carrier for the games communication. It’s also important that you are able to use the information about individual’s online behaviour to identify whether they are indeed taking part or being drawn into conversations such as these. Using our safeguarding tool or monitoring system Visigo, you are able to review the sites being accessed by pupils or students and are able to monitor their online conversations if given a cause for concern.

Many parents have already been warned by schools to be aware of Blue Whale, and therefore it’s important the school also takes the appropriate measures to protect people. If you’d like to talk in more detail about how Smoothwall can protect children against Blue Whale, please contact us today.

Further Reading
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