Online game "Blue Whale" spreading fear in Eastern Europe
A sinister social media phenomenon is taking hold in Russia and spreading to other countries in Eastern Europe. Participants in the "Blue Whale" game are supposed to complete dangerous tasks for 50 days and then kill themselves on the last day. According to Russian media the game has already been linked to 130 teenage deaths. Commentators are concerned that a growing number of youths in Latvia and Estonia are playing the game.
No one tackling teenagers' problems
The coverage of the game was sensationalist and insensitive, the website of public radio station LSM criticises:
“Rather than investigating and checking the available facts the media simply passed everything on uncritically. Rumours about the nature and popularity of the game are simply repeated as if they were facts. But our efforts to explain the tragic incidents caused by the computer game are diverting attention from the real causes of these problems among children and teenagers. … They follow their own logic. They promote short-lived drama and intrigues. 'Blue Whale' fulfils these requirements. Once the media grow tired of this topic they will look for a new one. And the heroes of the previous topics will be left alone with their problems.”
Why self-harm becomes a game
What compels young people to play such dangerous games? Õhtuleht asks:
“They almost suffocate themselves because they're curious about what happens to the body when it's starved of oxygen. They run out in front of a moving car because peer pressure forces them to compete: who has the quickest reflexes or the fastest legs? In such cases investigation and discussions with parents, teachers, neighbours or police specialised in dealing with youths can help. But there are far sadder reasons for self-harm becoming a game. Estonian youths become trapped in closed Internet groups where malicious people spur them on to commit self-harm or even suicide. … What can be done? The situation becomes very serious when youths are left to cope with their problems on their own, when there's no counsellor at their school or they have to wait six months for treatment.”