Ten days ago, a Class IV student told Sanghamitra Ghosh, principal of The Mother’s International School, about “Blue Whale — a bad, dangerous online game”. While she had been reading about this online phenomenon, in which players are assigned risky tasks that eventually leads to suicide, this chat with a student of her school made her send an advisory to parents.
In an email to parents, she mentioned the “various symptoms of a child who may be inclined towards participating in this online game” as well as the need to be “vigilant”. “There is so much reporting about this game that I think it’s best to speak about it. Counsellers too have had a chat with children. I also asked the IT department to go online and see how accesible this game is,” said Ghosh.
As suspected suicides in some cities continue to be linked to this “game”, many schools in the capital have sent out advisories to parents. Aditi Misra, principal, Delhi Public School in Gurgaon, sent a similar email to parents on August 22, urging “parents to talk to children about cyber safety.” “Apart from teachers, we’ve also made senior students interact with juniors about the risks involved,” Misra said.
The “game” allegedly came into existence in 2013 in Russia and became popular in 2016 when a number of teen suicides were associated with it. The danger lies in how little one knows about the game — there are allegedly no URLs or websites of it. The player has to undertake 50 challenges — from “dangling legs from a terrace” to “watching horror movies at 4.20 am” and finally “committing suicide”.
In the last two weeks, cyber law expert Pavan Duggal has seen a spike in the number of parents and schools approaching him regarding cyber safety counselling sessions. “Children are feeling neglected and lonely… These games are enablers as they exploit a vulnerable child,” he said.
Manit Jain, director, Heritage School, said “There is controversy around its very existence but we can’t ignore it. So, last week, we sent an email to parents about it.” The mail advises parents “to keep an eye on signs such as a child waking up unusually early or sudden isolation.”
While Ahlcon International School hasn’t sent out emails to parents about the danger lurking in the form of “Blue Whale”, teachers have spoken to children about cyber safety. “Children are aware of it but a lot of it is gossip. Before it plays with their psyche, we must have an open conversation with them, so they know there is a safety net,” said principal Ashok Pandey.
Ameeta Wattal, principal of Springdales School, Pusa Road, said, “We are having discussions with parents in capsules of 15-20. We’ve discussed internet safety at length.”