As several state governments are raising the need to spread awareness on the Blue Whale Challenge that has reportedly claimed the life of a teenager in Mumbai, the Child Helpline in Bengaluru has seen a tremendous increase in the number of calls over the past month.
Tanu Kulkarni reports for The Hindu that although these calls were not directly related to the recently-discovered Blue Whale Challenge, most of the parents were concerned about their children's mobile and internet addiction.
Blue Whale Challenge is a recent internet trend where teenagers perform various dangerous acts at the behest of the administrator. The activities spanning across 50 days often cause harm to the player, with the last step being to kill oneself.
Quoting Nagasimha G. Rao, the nodal officer at the Helpline, the report states that as opposed to one or two calls they receive a month related to mobile and internet addiction, they have received at least 15 calls over the past month. This, the officer points out, is a result of parents being anxious about their children's internet activities, even more so in the wake of Blue Whale Challenge.
Although Bengaluru has so far not reported any deaths allegedly due to the game, the police say that they are also looking into that angle with regard to the suicide of a 20-year-old student of International Institute of Information Technology in the city.
Goluguri Sai Sarat had jumped off the terrace of his seven-storey hostel building at around 4.30 am on August 11. While the police probed ragging, financial and family disputes angles, they were unable to find any leads. However, all the applications on Sarat's phone were found to have been locked, along with all the messages and call records. This has spiked the suspicions of the investigating team.
"As call records and messages were deleted, we suspect Blue Whale game could have led him to commit suicide. We have asked our technical team to verify what applications he had downloaded and check his Google and YouTube search history," a senior official told TNIE.
Karnataka government seeks Centre's intervention
According to reports, the Karnataka government is mulling writing to the Centre requesting a ban on the game. The Maharashtra and Kerala governments have already written to the Centre in this regard.
Tanveer Sait, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education was quoted as saying that a state government cannot take measures to stop the game on its own.
"But, I have asked my department officials to draft a request letter to HRD as well as the IT Ministry in this regard. Even I am reading reports of kids and teenagers ending life after getting addicted to the game," the Minister said.