Two days after 19-year-old Vignesh was found dead at his Madurai residence with an image of a blue whale on his left forearm, the collector of Salem district has taken steps to prevent children from falling prey to the game.
LIke Vignesh, many teenagers in the country are suspected to be victims of the deadly game, including 16-year-old Manoj, who was found dead in Thiruvananthapuram on July 26.
Salem Collector Rohini Bhajibhakare said that parents need to monitor their children when it came to online activity, adding that district authorities are taking steps to ensure that such an incident does not reoccur. She said that a district-level committee comprising of education officers and psychologists was being formed.
"Parents first need to monitor children and their online behaviour. The threat can be controlled if parents and children work on it together. If children are behaving differently, immediately contact psychiatrists or the Child Protection Services," Rohini told TNM on Friday.
"On our part, we have arranged for a meeting at the district level. The Chief Education Officer, psychiatrists and members of the Child Protection Services will be in attendance. We are going to form a council and handle this matter,â she added.
Speaking further about the game, she said, "Google Play Store and Facebook have been asked to remove any links to the game. What we are seeing now is a shadow effect, where the game is still being downloaded. We will make sure action is taken against those spreading any link to the game. The Childline number 1098 will give priority to any calls about the Blue Whale Challenge."
After the challenge was suspected to have claimed multiple lives in India, on August 15, the Indian government directed Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo to remove links to the Blue Whale Challenge immediately.
However, according to experts, the Blue Whale Challenge is not a game but a covert and underground exercise which involves an administrator targeting vulnerable targets and coercing them to complete dangerous tasks involving self-harm and eventually commit suicide.
Even the Chennai police on Monday issued an advisory to the public regarding the challenge, asking parents to monitor their children's online activity and look out for any behaviour hinting at depression.
Blue Whale Challenge
The Blue Whale Challenge is a morbid social media âgameâ which targets vulnerable teens and pushes them to inflict self-harm and ultimately commit suicide. The challenge involves many tasks which are given by an administrator or curator, and have to be completed one by one.
The challenge, which originated in Russia, targets children between 10 and 14 years of age. It spread to several countries through social media, and was brought to light in 2016 when Galina Mursaliyeva, a journalist with Russian publication Novaya Gazeta investigated her daughterâs online activity after she committed suicide.
What she uncovered was a culture of online âdeath groupsâ on a Russian social network called VKokakte, where the administrator or curator would assign tasks to the vulnerable teen.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact Childline at 1098.
Madurai police will also be carrying out a sensitisation campaign within 10 days, for students to stay away from dangerous online games. They have also formed a special team to keep a track of suspicious activities based on inputs from parents and teachers. People can reach out on WhatsApp at 770880611.