There’s yet another online trend catching the attention of tweens and teens
around the world. It’s called the Blue Whale Challenge. But unlike some of the
fun, harmless challenges we’ve seen in the past, the Blue Whale Challenge
poses dire consequences. To win this game is to take one’s own life.
This social media game that is being accessed through Snapchat, Instagram
and Facebook began in Russia and has made its way into multiple other
countries including the U.S. The basis of the challenge is that an anonymous
“group administrator,” otherwise known as “the curator,” hands out 50 tasks to
selected players that must be completed, documented and posted during a 50-
day period. The tasks start off small but become increasingly more harmful, with
players being asked to wake up at unusual hours to watch disturbing videos,
self-cut in the shape of a whale and take selfies while hanging off the highest
rooftop they can find. In the end, the only way to “win” the Blue Whale Challenge
is to die by suicide.
It is being debated whether this challenge is real or just a viral hoax. However,
police nationwide aren’t taking chances, and are sending warnings to parents
and school administrators following the suicides of two U.S. teens whose deaths
appear to be connected to the Blue Whale Challenge.
In July 2017, fifteen-year-old Isaiah Gonzales was found hanging in his closet
with his cell phone propped up nearby where he had been livestreaming his
suicide. According to his family, Isaiah was a happy kid who showed no signs of
depression. He had recently joined the ROTC program at his Texas school and
was gearing up to start his sophomore year in high school. The family had not
heard of the Blue Whale Challenge until after their son’s death. In addition to the
suicide video, they found other photos of the teen documenting acts of self-harm
on his cell phone – connecting back to the challenge.
A second teenage death in the U.S. is also being linked to the Blue Whale
Challenge. A sixteen-year-old Georgia girl, whose family is choosing to keep her
name private, committed suicide in May 2017. Her death, like that of Isaiah’s,
came as a shock to family and friends. Following her death, her older brother
discovered the link to the Blue Whale Challenge. He found a sketch his sister
had drawn of a girl with a name beneath it in Russian. It turned out to be the
name of a 17-year-old girl who posted a “goodbye” selfie moments before
committing suicide in Russia in November 2015 – that traced back to something
called the Blue Whale Challenge. The brother then remembered the picture of
the blue whale taped next to his sister’s mirror in her bedroom. As he continued
to look through her sketches he found pages of whale drawings and magazine
cutouts with the words “I Am a Blue Whale” pasted over them, accompanied by
drawings indicating self-harm, suicidal statements and multiple entries written in
Russian. The family said they had no idea their daughter knew Russian.
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