The civil society calls for the introduction of comprehensive cyber education in schools
Reports of an online challenge, called ‘Blue Whale’, reportedly found in the United Kingdom (UK) and Russia, has allegedly caused teenagers to be brainwashed into committing suicide.
Police in the UK have warned parents and advised them to remain vigilant of their children’s usage of the internet and to monitor such, while the Woodlands school in Basildon, Essex, is reported as having sent a letter to parents of schoolchildren to make them aware of and educate them regarding such. Several teen deaths have been allegedly linked to the game.
It is yet unclear as to whether the game constitutes an urban legend or a suicide cult. The title ‘Blue Whale’ is assumed to be a reference to Blue Whales that sometime appears to have beached their bodies ashore on purpose, thus causing their deaths.
The game is said to begin with the teenager playing the game being assigned a series of tasks by an anonymous master, tasks which are to be completed within a period of 50 days. The initial tasks are said to be simple. These include watching a horror film. However, with the progression of the tasks, they are reported to become dangerous, with the final one reportedly being an order to the player to commit suicide.
Several posts on social media platforms were circulated last week which claimed that a student of a leading school had committed suicide as part of the challenge. Though efforts to corroborate the reports deemed futile, child protection authorities have already commenced investigating the reports.
Accordingly, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) has commenced investigations into the matter.
When contacted, the police also stated that they had not received any information on such incidents.
However, the importance of parents having a watchful eye on their children’s online activities have once again come to the discussion table.
Meanwhile, whilst noting that at the present moment it was difficult to ascertain from news reports as to what this game entailed (also assuming that such a game even exists in reality), The Grassrooted Trust pointed out that the key message for parents here was to be vigilant of what their children do online but also to not take extreme steps such as banning children from using their mobile phones or taking away their mobile phones.
Director – The Grassrooted Trust, Paba Deshapriya expressed hope that things like The Blue Whale would draw the attention of the relevant authorities to take steps to initiate constructive and comprehensive cyber education in schools. “As we say, good things can come out of bad things,” she noted.
Online life has become a huge part of modern life, and therefore it is perhaps time for our school education system to teach children about the internet so that they can be sensible and take informed decisions about their online behavior, she elaborated.
“It is very important to have open lines of communications between parents and children and allow them to be honest with their parents. What children do online is a reflection of the offline relationship that they have with their parents,” Deshapriya emphasized.
No complaints thus far – SLCERT
Elsewhere, the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) informed that while they too had heard of the said game through media reports, they had however not received any complaint from a local citizen nor had they received any information in relation to an account of firsthand experience from a local user of the game. There are no locally or internationally available statistics with regard to how many users of the game are there.
Senior Information Security Engineer at SLCERT, Roshan Chandraguptha further explained that the internet had a good including useful side and bad side (“some problematic websites”), and there was also the fact that one could get addicted to it from use.
Addressing the question of online gaming, he added that some games were harmless and at their worst, simply constituting a waste of one’s time. He however termed ‘Blue Whale’ as a tragic game, one based on which allegedly persons committed suicide.
However, he also noted that any deaths reported implicating or linking the particular game as being the cause of the deaths cannot however be directly attributed to the said game.
“One has to be mindful of these. In order to avoid trouble, parents have to be watchful of what their kids including teenagers do with regard to playing computer games and online games,” Chandraguptha advised.