Blue Whale and other Groups of Death. How to Protect Children?
Oct 24, 2019
“When I attended school, one of my classmates jumped from the 9th floor. She survived due to tree branches and snow but she was in the hospital for a long time but she did live to tell the tale. I don’t know what her life is like now. I am parenting my daughter and I’m so afraid something’s going to happen to her! I mean she could take the same step! I know that in your teens everything seems gloomy. I remember my own life, and I notice the same thing in my daughter. I tried not to panic, but my restraint ended when I learned about the online death group. I can’t stop myself from navigating her page in “VK.” The more I try to control and protect her, the more she moves away and self-isolates. As Korczak said, I’m so afraid that death will take her from me. But the child is already smartphone-addicted. What should I do with her? I am addicted to the constant checking of her correspondence … How can I stop myself panicking?”
– Olga, 34
According to WHO, suicide and self-inflicted serious harm to one’s health combine to be one of the leading causes of death for adolescents aged 10-19. Every hour, more than 7 children commit suicide or self-harm incompatibly with life. 
The desire to protect your child is a natural and reasonable one. Unfortunately, not everything depends on parents.
In adolescence, active hormonal changes are triggered, together with the emergence one’s sense of identity — hence contradictions, fears, conflicts with parents, feelings of loneliness, etc. Even cheerful children can become depressed during this period and succumb to the influence of death groups: these where you begin to play games in which you win if you die.
What are these groups? Why do children play such games? Most importantly, can we protect children from them?
- Dangerous games for teenagers online
- Names of online death groups on social networks
- The story of creation: who came up with it and why?
- The rise in popularity of death groups
- How do children start playing?
- How do you know when a child is in danger?
- What should parents do if the child is addicted to the online game?
Dangerous games for teenagers online
Most computer games are quite harmless and can only hurt with excessive fascination. But there are games of which the purpose is to bring an individual to suicide. Teenagers come into play, follow the instructions given to them by the curators, and the last task is to commit suicide!
Names of online death groups on social networks
There are a lot of names for such groups.
- The names may be based on various legends that seem to romanticize death and represent suicide as a choice of brave and intelligent people. For example, the legend that wise and lonely blue whales commit suicide by throwing themselves ashore has spawned the names of the games such as “Sea of Whales” and “Blue Whale”.
- “Blue Whale” can turn into “Blue Fox,” “Pink Pony” or “Red Owl.”
- The name may also mean the time it takes for one of the tasks, such as “Wake me up at 4:20.”
- Here are some more of the famous game titles: “Silent House,” “Milky Way,” “NaN,” “F57,” “Well, bye.”
The story of creation: who came up with it and why?
Similar groups became popular after the suicide of Renata (Rina) Cambolina in 2015, who took a selfie before throwing herself under the train. The F57 group, which posted videos and articles including suicides, murders, and similar shock content, has claimed responsibility for the incident. The administrator of the group has spread the information that Rina was a member of a special Blue Whale sect, and played a game that resulted in suicide.
“They raised her as… ‘She’s a goddess, she’s so small and brave, we have to follow after her.’ She became their idol. She lived without fear, and died without fear – but is that normal?”
– Yana, Renata’s mother in an interview with life.ru
Many teenagers were interested in, and attracted by this story. The group administrator started handing out assignments and numbers to community members and creating riddles. According to some researchers, curiosity was the main reason for the popularity of such groups. What’s going to happen? Is it really true? Will I be able to resist? Will I be able to repeat it?
The more popular the idea became, the more imitators arose. More and more groups were formed. At the same time, not all of them were aimed at bringing people to suicide. Many groups were created to confront the Blue Whale and provide moral support to teenagers who think about suicide.
At the end of 2016, the organizer and creator of “Blue Whale” was discovered and taken into custody. Philip Lis, born in 1995, is a yesterday’s teenager, introverted, secretive, without work or education, and from a dysfunctional family. According to him and his acquaintances, he wanted to become famous and popular and behaved as he did so that people would know about him and remember him. One day, he even faked his own suicide to attract attention.
Investigators determined that 15 children were injured by Lis’ actions, and five others were fortunately rescued. 
The rise in popularity of death groups
Lis’ detention, as well as numerous media reports, sparked an incredible wave of interest, and in 2017 there were a huge number of imitators, probably also wanting fame, attention, and obedience from other teenagers. Some people were probably just trying to prey on the children, as the tasks also included instructions to send a small amount of money to a particular phone number.
Now in social media any groups which are created similar to the death groups are deleted. The Law on Suicide has also been tightened. We can say that the government and the moderators of social media are doing everything possible to prevent the spreading of such games.
But the danger lies in the fact that thanks to social media, children do know about these groups, and they are looking for opportunities to enter a game with death. They google “Blue Whale”, and try to download the application. Of course, they are looking for a game on social media and may not realize the possible consequences.
A screenshot from a group that opposes the Blue Whale death game. Names and photos closed for security reasons
How do children start playing?
The rules of the game are simple. The teenager, who wants to play, leaves on his page such hashtags as #bluewhale, #f57, #quiethouse, #Iammin, #lookingforcurator, #whalesfloatingup, etc. Short rhymes with themed emojis can also be found:
Blue house is at the waves.
Blue whale is at the clouds.
Whale, take me with you.
I’m waiting for instructions. I’m ready to play.
After that, the curators contact the child and give him tasks. For example, draw a whale, cut it out or etch some inscription on your hand with a blade or knife, take a picture on the roof or rails, watch a terrible movie all day, etc. They may give him/her a number. Some tasks must be completed at a certain time, say at 4:20 a.m. The wording of the tasks is often blurred and is designed to provoke curiosity. For example, “it’s your number, you’ll find out later what it means” It is believed that the total of tasks should be 50 — a reference to the book “50 Days Before My Suicide.” The last task is suicide.
Note. The book “50 Days Before My Suicide” was written by a Russian teenage girl in which she describes her experiences. This book is sometimes recommended to be read by parents who want to better understand what might be happening to their child. Tellingly, in the book the heroine chooses life.
Teenagers are persuaded to keep everything secret and not say anything to adults. They may even be threatened, for example, the facilitators may say they have learned the address and will kill their parents if the teenager gives the show away.
How do you know when a child is in danger?
Some signs may indicate that the child is involved in the game or prone to suicidal behavior.
- Self-harm. This includes cuts on the body, head bumps on hard surfaces, hair pulling, tweaking, and slapping oneself, etc.
- Posting and preserving images that intersect with the topic of death groups, such as blue whales, butterflies, and unicorns. A large number of posts may be related to the topic of death, the meaninglessness of life, and depression.
- Low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, self-flagellation, and self-humiliation.
- Loss of interest in life and former hobbies, prostration, and the appearance of a depressed mood for a long time.
- Removal from others, from parents, and friends. Reducing social contacts.
- Putting records in order, unexpected general cleaning in the room, giving away favorite things and toys.
- Spending all the time on social media, deleting of messages, strict refusal to talk about his/her interlocutors and what he/she does online.
Also at risk are children who are bullied, rejected at school, and LGBT teenagers. 
These signs do not necessarily mean that the child is involved in the game, but they are reasons to be alert and make an effort to establish contact with your children. Trusting a child is the best way to protect him/her from these dangers.
What should parents do if the child is addicted to the online game?
Of course, Blue Whale or similar games are not the main or only cause for children to commit suicide. Russia has long seen tragic statistics on child suicide. In 2007, there was an emo subculture that also romanticized the topic of death and depression, and its disciples wore black and loved mysticism. They were also considered a threat to the nation, and attempts were made to ban them. 
But the fact is that children who play Blue Whale or want to come into play are likely to already have suicidal thoughts. Teenagers also commit suicide without assignments from the curator. They may be attracted by the death topic, and seek support and understanding from people like themselves. Within the death groups, they may find something that reflects their inner world.
Teenagers often treat the Internet as a means to escape from reality. There they can find communities with similar interests where they are understood, paid attention to, valued, and noticed. They get there what they lack in the family or at school.
“All adults tell you: ‘Don’t mess with the fools, don’t get me started. You’re already in so much trouble, just mind your own business.’ We are expected to study well and come home after school, so as not to upset our beloved mothers. They (adults) don’t want us to be anyone. They want us to be some clone – obedient, humble, and kind. The perfect kid doesn’t think he’s doing what he’s told. Online, we choose who we are to be.”
– Ulyana, 16
So how do you save or wean your child from computer addiction?
The first step: start building trust-based relations with your children. The family should be a safe and comfortable environment for all its members – the children in particular. Analyze your relationship and think about where you can improve it, where you can give your child more freedom, and instances when you can stop pressing him/her. Try to learn how to negotiate and not to force or issue ultimatums. Treat with understanding all the manifestations of the teenage crisis. Love your children and tell them that you do so.
Step two: the child must be sure that you are his/her protector and supporter. He/she can get a D, skip out lessons, fight with the teacher — but you have to be on his/her side. If a problem arises, you should think together how to solve it, and not push your child further into the abyss in which he/she has already stumbled.
Do not ally with other adults (such as teachers) against your child. Your children should know that you will never push them away and will not stop caring for them. A trusting relationship will increase the probability that children will solve their problems with you, and not with friends by means of the Internet or sinister games.
Step three: take the problems of your child seriously. Parents often do not notice wake-up calls, such as depressive symptoms in their children. Parting with the first love seems like a trifle to us, because we know that they will get over it. But the youngsters don’t know that. For them, any event in their lives is significant and important. We have to treat these events meaningfully. Don’t shrug off teenage problems as nonsense. Our children don’t have the experience we have, and everything is serious and real for them.
“We had a girl in our class who swallowed pills. Well, I’m ashamed I didn’t interfere when she was bullied. I didn’t bully, but I didn’t say anything, and that’s worse. She was chubby and clumsy, and for this, she was constantly called out and teased. Her books could be thrown into the closet, she was pushed, or her pencils were broken. Teachers and the school psychologist waved off the bullying and advised her not to pay attention. Then the boys made her a fake page, where she was like a beauty and a favorite of the class, and scorned her for 2 days. On the third day, she did not come to school, and we were told that she was in the hospital. “
– Anton, 19 years old
Step four: be ready to talk about anything. Don’t scold your child if you find something that scares or annoys you. For example, if you notice that your son or daughter is cutting his/her hands or often talking about death. Teenagers are exploring the world. They want to talk about the things they care about and what interests them. It would be better to receive honest and truthful information from you, not from the Internet, don’t preach to them and impose morality.
Step five: Help your children to find alternatives to avoid a constant online hangout. These could be different family traditions, hobbies you can share together, sports, etc. The main thing is that it is interesting for you both. If children have already formed a tablet or computer addiction, it is important to help them overcome it. This does not mean that the phone, the Internet, and the computer should be completely banned, but it is important to offer interesting alternatives. It is also useful to seek help from specialists who know how addiction is formed and how to banish it.
The 7Spsy behavior modification technique can be one way to get rid of Internet addiction. The patented program is based on the scientific theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky, etc.
The program is aimed at changing behavior and will help to form a negative attitude toward Internet addiction. Within 2-6 weeks the teenager will be able to switch to reality, learn to perceive the Internet as a useful tool but not the meaning of life. The sessions take place remotely and are completely anonymous — there is no need to pour out the soul or open up to an outsider, which teens often do not like to do. At the same time, your children will be able to get the support of a psychologist in any convenient form — by phone, in online chatrooms, and by e-mail.
Behavior modification techniques can also serve as a prevention of Internet addiction in children. Your child will learn to change his/her behavior and be able to control temptations.
It is important to understand that despite its benefits and versatility, the 7Spsy technique will not replace parental duties towards your children. A trusting relationship between you is the keystone. Other things are just useful additions that can make your life easier. You can devote more time to improving family relationships as you support the professionals working with online addiction in children.
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