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Blue Whale and other groups of death. How to protect children?

24.10.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“When I attended school, my classmate had jumped from the 9th floor. She survived due to tree branches and snow. She was in the hospital for a long time, but survived and was cured. I don’t know what her life is like now, but I am parenting my daughter. I’m so afraid something’s going to happen to her! I mean she could take the same step! I know that in teens everything seems gloomy. I remember myself, and I notice the same thing in my daughter. I tried not to panic, but my restraint ended after I had 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, that I take her life from her. But the child is already smartphone-addicted. What should I do with her? Whereas I am addicted to the constant checking of her correspondence … How can I stop panicking myself? ”

– Olga, 34

According to WHO, suicide and harm to one’s health are one of the leading causes of death for adolescents aged 10-19. Every hour, more than 7 children commit suicide or self-harm incompatible with life. [1]

The desire to protect your child is a natural and reasonable one. Unfortunately, not everything depends on us.

In adolescence, active hormonal changes are triggered, plus the emergence of the sense of identity — hence contradictions, fears, conflicts with parents, feelings of loneliness, etc. Even cheerful children can be depressed during this period and succumb to the influence of death groups: 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?

Contents:

  1. Dangerous games for teenagers online
  2. Names of online death groups on social networks
  3. The story of creation: who came up with it and why?
  4. The rise in popularity of death groups
  5. How do children start playing?
  6. How do you know a child is in danger?
  7. What should parents do if the child is online addicted?

Dangerous games for teenagers online

Most computer games are quite harmless and can only harm with excessive fascination. But there are games, the purpose of which is to bring to suicide. Teenagers come into play, follow the instructions given to them by the curators, and the last task is to commit a 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, 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 with 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 repeat after her.” She became their idol. She lived without fear, and died without fear” – is that normal?”

– Yana, Renata’s mother in an interview with life.ru

Many teenagers were interested and attracted by this story. The group administrator started handing out assignments and numbers to community members and making riddles. According to some researchers, curiosity was the main reason for the popularity of such groups. What’s going to happen? Is that true? Will I be able to resist? Will I be able to repeat it?

The more popular was the idea, the more imitators arose. There were more and more groups. At the same time, not all of them were aimed at bringing to suicide. Many groups were created to confront the Blue Whale and provide moral support to teenagers who think about suicide.

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At the end of 2016, the organizer and creator of “Blue Whale” was found and taken into custody. Philip Lis, born in 1995, is yesterday’s teenager, introverted, secretive, without work or education, and from a dysfunctional family. According to him and as his friends said, he wanted to become famous and popular and did everything for people to know about him and remember him. One day, he even faked his suicide to attract attention.

Investigators determined that 15 children were injured by Lis’s actions, and five others were rescued. [4]

The rise in popularity of death groups

The Lis’s 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 to the phone number.

Now in social media any groups similar to death groups are deleted. The Law on Suicide has also been tightened. We can say that the governmentand the moderators of social mediaare doing everything possible to prevent the spreading of such games.But the danger lies in the fact that thanks to the media children know about these groups, and they are looking for opportunities to enter the game with death, google “Blue Whale”, and try to download the application. Of course, they are looking for a game at social media.
The rise in popularity of death groups

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:

The rise in popularity of death groups

After that, the curators contact the child and give him tasks. For example, draw a whale, cut it out or make some inscription on his hand with a blade or knife, take a picture on the roof or rails, watch a terrible movie all day, etc. They can give him a number. Some tasks must be completed at a certain time — 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 does it mean” 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” is written by a Russian teenage girl in which she describes her experiences. This book is sometimes advised to read to parents who want to better understand what is 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, they may say they have learned his address and will kill their parents if the teenager gives the show away.

How do you know a child is in danger?

How do you know a child is in danger?

Some signs may indicate that the child is in the game or prone to suicidal behavior.

  1. Self-harm. This includes cuts on the body, head bumps on hard surfaces, hair pulling, tweaking and slapping to oneself, etc.
  2. Posting and preserving images that intersect with the topic of death groups, such as blue whales, butterflies, and unicorns. A large number of posts related to the topic of death, the meaninglessness of life, and depression.
  3. Low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, self-flagellation, and self-humiliation.
  4. Loss of interest in life and former hobbies, prostration, and depressed mood for a long time.
  5. Removal from others, from parents, and friends. Reducing social contacts.
  6. Putting records in order, unexpected general cleaning in the room, giving away favorite things and toys.
  7. Spending all the timeat socialmedia, deletingof messages, strict refuseto tell about his/her interlocutorsand what he/she does online.

Also at risk are children who are bullied, rejected at school, and LGBT teenagers. [5]

These signs do not mean that the child is involved in the game, but it is a reason to be alert and make an effort to establish contact with your children. Trusting a child is the best way to protect him from these dangers.

What should parents do if the child is online addicted?

What should parents do if the child is online addicted?

Of course, Blue Whale or similar games are not the main cause for children tocommitsuicide. Russia has long seen sad statistics on child suicide. In 2007, there was an emo subculture that also romanticized the topic of death and depression, and its adepts wore black and loved mysticism They were also considered a threat to the nation and tried to ban them. [7]

But the fact is that children who play Blue Whale or want to come into play can already have suicidal thoughts. Teenagers also commit suicide without assignments from the curator. They may be attracted by the deathtopic, they seek support and understanding among people like them. In the death groups, they find something that reflects their inner world.

Teenagers often treatthe Internet as a way to escape from the reality. There they can find communities of theirinterest where they are understood, paid attention, valued, and noticed. They get there what they lack in the family or at school.

“All adults tell you: “Don’t mess with the fool, don’t get me started, I’m 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 mother. They (adults) don’t want us to be anyone. They want us to be some kind, or rather, 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 to 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 members, and children in particular. Analyze your relationship and think about where you can improve it, where you can give your child more freedom, and in when you can stop pressing him/her. Try to learn how to negotiate, not to force or issue ultimatums. Treat with understanding of the manifestations of the teenage crisis. Love your children and tell them about it.

Step two: the child must be sure that you are his protectorandsupporter. He can get a D, skip out on half a quadmester, 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 who had already stumbled to the abyss.

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. Such a trusting relationship will increase the probability that children will solve their problems with you, and not with friends on by means of the Internet or games.

Step three: take seriouslyproblems ofyour child. Parents often do not notice wake-up calls, such as depressive symptoms in children. Parting with the first love seems like a trifle to us, because we know that they will get over it. But the kids don’t know that. For them, any event in their lives is significant and important. We have to treat these events the same way 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 it’s worse. She was chubby, clumsy, and for this, she was constantly called down and teased. Her books could be thrown on a closet, she was pushed or her pencils were broken. Teachers and the school psychologist waved off and advised not to pay attention to this. Then the boys found her fake page, where she is 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 what they care about and are interested in. It would be better if they will receive honest and truthful informationfrom you, not from the Internet, don’tnotate and impose morality.

Step five: Help your children to findsomething to avoida constant online hangout. It can be different family traditions, hobbies you can share together, sports, etc. The main thing is that it was interesting not only for you, but also for your child. If children have already formed a tablet or computer addiction, it is important to help overcome it. This does not mean that the phone, the Internet, and the computer should be completely banned, but it is important to offer an interesting alternative. It is also useful to seek help from specialists who know how addiction is formed and how to get rid of it.

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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. In 2-6 weeks the teenager will be able to switch to reality, learn to perceive the Internet as a useful tool, not the meaning of life. The trainings take place remotely and are completely anonymous — there is no need to pour out the soul or open to an outsider, which teens often do not like. 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 technique can also serve as a prevention of Internet addiction in children. Your child will learn to change his behavior and be able to control his fancies.

It is important to understand that despite its benefits and versatility, the 7Spsy technique will not replace parents to your children. A trusting relationship between you is a keystone. Everything else is just useful additions that can make your life easier. For example, you can devote more time to improving family relationships by leaving professionals working with online addiction in children.

References:

  1. Statistika VOZ po podrostkovoj smertnosti (https://www.who.int/ru/news/item/16-05-2017-more-than-1-2-million-adolescents-die-every-year-nearly-all-preventable).
  2. Lyubopytstvo — odna iz prichin rasprostraneniya informacii o gruppah smerti (https://snob.ru/selected/entry/122243/).
  3. Kto takoj Filipp Lis (https://meduza.io/feature/2017/03/03/kto-takoy-filipp-lis-i-kakoe-otnoshenie-on-imeet-k-sinim-kitam-iz-vkontakte-reportazh-meduzy).
  4. Sledovateli ustanovili 15 poterpevshih ot dejstvij grupp smerti (https://ria.ru/20170511/1494079056.html).
  5. Risk suicida v 2-6 raz vyshe sredi LGBT-podrostkov (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11354889).
  6. Smertnost rossijskih podrostkov ot samoubijstv: statistika, prichiny (http://www.unrussia.ru/ru/un-in-russia/news/2011-12-01).
  7. «Emo — ugroza dlya podrostkov» (https://gazeta.spb.ru/26673-0/).