As you are aware, the deadly blue whale game has claimed lives of many teenagers. Cops suspect an active number of teenagers are still playing the game. During my recent interview at News9, I had the opportunity to connect with a few child rights activists and child psychologists. They mentioned their concern of lack of awareness among parents about the dark side of the web. I wrote a book(Fight The Blue Whale) to raise awareness on the blue whale game. You have an option to purchase the book or read it for free. You can read the entire contents of the book here or optionally purchase it from Amazon.
A bunch of motivated people working together can accomplish great things. The Internet is a powerful medium which helps the same. It makes collaboration, communication, and distribution easy and fast. Unfortunately, the intent can be good or evil. The Blue whale game is a result of such evil intention, built and managed by a group of sociopaths or psychopaths.
“There are people, and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. Who cause or will cause only harm to society, I was cleaning our society of such people. It was necessary to distinguish normal from biological rubbish.”
- Philipp Budeikin, Inventor of the Blue Whale game
Philipp Budeikin was a former psychology student who was expelled from his university. The game is psychologically designed to make the player suicidal as he/she progresses. It involves a list of 50 tasks like watching horror movies, cutting yourself, uploading a naked picture of yourself and finally taking your life.
The game is also known as
1. A quiet house
2. Silent house
3. A bunch of Wales
4. A bunch of Whales
5. Wake me up at 4.20 am
6. A sea
The game is not publically available. The administrators of the game strictly control the access to it. It is played using social media platforms, and teenagers with low self-esteem are the targets. The predators watch out for potential targets on social media and invite the player by sending him/her a link (In some cases the link is shared by peers of the victim on WhatsApp). When he opens the link he starts getting messages from an administrator of the game, who asks to give away his personal information, which is later used against him. They promise to ‘help’ them. They actively communicate with the victim during the game. At any point, if the user expresses the desire to quit, he is blackmailed. They threaten to kill his/her family or release their naked photos. The game originated in a Russian social media website in 2013. It claimed the first death in 2015. Based on a few reports the game is the reason for more than 200 suicides around the world.
Though the creator of the game was arrested, various groups have been formed and are taking the idea forward. This makes it difficult to stop. However, we can take action to ensure the safety of our loved ones. I will discuss these in detail in the upcoming chapters.
Questions & Answers
I am a victim; I am afraid if they will hurt my family?
Please contact suicide helpline of your respective country. If you are from India, Fortis Hospital has launched a 24x7 helpline (8376804102) for anxious parents and youngsters.
How do I protect my kids from such suicidal games?
Please turn to Chapter 4: Protecting Your Child.
What happens if someone doesn’t complete the blue whale challenge?
Nothing. They will scare you with continuous threats. Report to the cops / cyber crime cell.
Why can’t the government ban the game?
The word ‘game’ often makes us think it’s a graphical one or a software application that shows you a list of tasks to complete and credits you with badges and level ups. In the case of the Blue Whale, it is not. Instead, you are communicating with a person on the internet who gives you a list of tasks to complete. Now banning the game means eliminating the communication with such predators. These people mask their internet address and change them frequently. Out of the billions who use the internet finding and locating these predators who hid in the dark web is difficult. Even if few got caught, other psychopaths/sociopaths take the idea forward.
Why would someone play the deadly game?
Teenagers are the targets of the game. The rational part of a person’s brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. Their decision-making is a work in progress. Psychologists claim they often seek validation and have thoughts like “If I do something daring, people will respect me.” The predators of the game target such people and give them a fake sense of achievement for completing tasks involving self-harm.
How can we prevent from further Blue Whale tragedies?
Turn to chapter 5: Fight the Blue Whale.
What happens when you complete the Blue Whale Challenge?
What benefit do the predators get by taking so many lives?
A recent report mentioned broadcast videos of suicides are sold on the dark web for Bitcoin (A digital currency that supports anonymous transactions).
Around 1995, Ian Clarke from Edinburgh university created a new method of using the internet without detection for his thesis project. In the 90s, the internet could be monitored easily. He wanted to prevent such intentions. He got a B for his work.
In 2000, Clarke publically released his software. Now popularly known as Freenet. Millions of copies were downloaded and distributed around the world. In some countries, the website to download the software was blocked, but those users could get it from their friends. The software is so powerful that it not only hides the identity of the user using it but that anyone is using Freenet at all.
If you think Google gives you everything on the web, you are wrong. Search engines do not index a lot of web pages on the internet.
In other words, you can’t get access to these sites using conventional search engines like Google, Bing, etc. These pages lie in the deep web. Imagine an iceberg; you only find a part of it on the surface. Most of it lies below the surface of the water. Likewise, 90% of the information on the internet lies in the deep web. There is an attempt being made to plumb into the deep web. However, this would be impossible because there is too much data and it blocks an address if it tries to get too much information.
Dark web forms a part of the deep web. Dark web, unlike the deep web, requires you to have proprietary protocols or special software(like Freenet) for access. The websites hosted here are anonymous, so are the users who access it. The communication between the users of the dark web is highly encrypted which allows people to share information confidentially. Hence it’s the perfect place to carry out illegal activities such as drug trafficking, arms trade, child trade, etc. In 2013, a teenager died after consuming drugs purchased from Silk Road(Drug Trafficking Web Site). Not everything you find on the dark web is illegal.
So what is the connection between blue whale challenge and dark web? Self-harm groups long before blue whale came into existence. Blue whale game is the only one which has come to light. The administrators of the blue whale game are found selling the suicide videos of blue whale victims in the dark web.
On August 2017, a teenager got arrested who is accused of being one of the administrators. I suspect the administrators are trying to brainwash other teenagers to be criminals by being an administrator of the game. So even if they arrest a few people who are creators of the game, the idea they put outside is spreading like a virus infecting minds of other teenagers which makes it difficult to stop.
A teenager surfing the dark web is also vulnerable to be a prey of such criminals. In the dark web, criminal activity such as hacking is incentivized through Bitcoin. They can use the hacked information for crimes like trafficking or murder. Teens who find it easy to learn such things have a high possibility of accepting such tasks. This makes them a part of the criminal activity. The Internet is a powerful tool. Giving unrestricted access to your kid is dangerous.
In the digital age, following are the types of addictions
1. Web Surfing Addiction
2. Device Addiction
3. Cyber-Sexual Addiction
4. Cyber-Relationship Addiction
5. Gambling or Shopping Addiction
Most apps and games on your phones are engineered to be addictive. Games nowadays have no end. Social Networking sites like Instagram and Facebook lead to an infinite feed when opened. They trigger a notification to pull you back into their app. Your time is their money. They have hacked your habits. The habit of brushing one’s teeth while waking up is changed to checking notifications.
Here are some signs to check if you are addicted
* When someone tells a joke, you say “lol”
* You use the phrase “hashtag” in your typical conversation like #FAIL.
* You experience phantom vibrations ( You feel the phone is ringing or vibrating when it is not)
* The first thing you do when you wake up is to reach out to your phone
* You make sure your followers ‘like’ the food before you taste it.
It’s most likely you relate to at least one of these. Teenagers are more vulnerable because they feel pleasure or pain more intensely than other age groups. This is the reason why they seek for social approval. Their peers highly influence their decision. Social Media provides them with a constant supply of such social rewards from their peers. Blue Whale game utilized this to lure teenagers.
There were several games before Blue Whale by which teenagers tried to impress others
Youngsters choke themselves out to the point of passing; then they post these recording on social media.
The Aerosol Challenge
British teenagers filmed themselves holding the spray a few inches above the skin. They press and hold the aerosol as long as possible and try to outdo their peers to show who can endure it the longest.
People spray themselves with flammable liquid and then setting the liquids aflame. These acts are recorded and posted on social media.
Check if your child
* Is drowsy in the morning, because the challenge involves waking up at 4.20 AM
* Has any hurt marks on the body especially arms
* Started watching horror movies recently
* Updates social media with negative status
* Withdraws from friends and family
* Has drifted away from a hobby they liked before
Some of these signs are common in teenagers, so this can’t tell for sure if he/she is playing the blue whale game. But there is a possibility.
These are the two measures I suggest to prevent the child from playing such suicidal games.
1. Enforce positive habits
2. Enable Usage restrictions / Content Filters
Enforce positive habits
When I was 15, I used to play a lot of video games. One evening, my dad observed this and asked me “Why do you waste time playing this? Instead, can you learn to build the software I use?” This question changed my perception from the computer as a tool for playing video games to creating things that can solve people’s problems. This inspired me to become a programmer. You are reading this book because of the idea my dad put in my head years ago.
Your kid is undoubtedly gifted with one or the other skill. MBTI test will help in identifying them. Encourage them, more importantly help him/her add value to others. This way you will not just prevent them from playing suicidal games but shape them as a person of immense value to the society.
Kids are highly impacted by the kind of content they consume. Children who play violent video games are more likely to have aggressive thoughts and feelings. You should be gifting him/her a couple of good books instead of video games. Practically this seems impossible.
Enable Usage restrictions / Content Filters
The problem with giving restricted access to the device is, kids these days are smart. They will find a way to unlock them. Even if you keep the device away, he/she will easily find other means of access. I would suggest keeping a watch over the teenager while he uses the device. If that’s not possible, you can take the following measures.
1. Tap Settings > General > Restrictions.
2. Scroll down and tap Restrictions, then tap Enable Restrictions.
3. Create a Restrictions passcode. You need your Restrictions passcode to change your settings or to turn off Restrictions.
Here you can restrict existing apps or enable download only for the content of selected rating.
4+ — Applications: No objectionable material.
9+ — Applications: May contain mild cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and infrequent or mild mature, suggestive, or horror-themed content
12+ — Applications: May contain infrequent mild language, frequent or intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and mild or infrequent mature or suggestive themes, and simulated gambling.
17+ — Applications: May contain frequent and intense offensive language; frequent and intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence; and frequent and intense mature, horror, and suggestive themes; plus sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
1. Open PlayStore
2. Pull the navigation drawer on the left
3. Scroll down, tap on settings.
4. Go to parental controls, turn it on by toggling the button
5. Set content restriction as per your requirement.
The Android Operating system is easy to hack around. Setting parental controls might not be enough. Here are a couple of tools which can give you more control and monitoring capabilities.
They give you a dashboard for social media monitoring, setting time limits for internet usage, games or apps and even the ability to track calls and messages.
Family Shield from OpenDNS
OpenDNS bans adult websites and sites with violence; they keep updating their list often. This tool can even ban proxy servers which kids use these days to get around parental controls.
Instead of blocking sites, this helps you to keep an eye on what your child is doing.
In India, suicide is the leading cause of death among youngsters. There is evidence that social media and internet can influence suicidal behaviours. The quantity of content posted on the web every minute is enormous. Manually keeping a watch over what a billion users post online is impossible.
Facebook has developed an algorithm that finds warning signs in user’s post. It is then sent to a human review team who tries contact the post’s author and provide them a way to seek help. Presently, this is only available in the US.
Other social media services are working on such measures. But, they can only do that to a certain extent. For Ex: If the government asks messaging platforms to remove links on the blue whale. Searching messages between people, even though done by a machine is an act of invading user’s privacy. Privacy activists might have a problem with it. However, doing this in the dark web is impossible.
When you feel cold you wear a jacket; you don’t expect NASA to build a system that can regulate the temperature in the places you like to go. Likely, I would suggest installing safety software in the devices. Regulating the internet is not going to happen anytime soon.
The first step is to spread awareness. There are a few who still think that the blue whale game is a hoax. Most parents don’t even have a clue that parental control exist on their phone. The reach of this book is pretty limited. But I expect the reader to spread the message among his/her family and friends. You are free to use any content in this book, in any manner with no attributions necessary. Probably you should try explaining these over a video of few minutes in your native language and share it to among your friends on social media.
Schools must be enforced to educate kids and parents on the safe use of Internet. I have seen parents and teachers shouting at the kids with “Don’t do ____” statements. The problem with kids these days is they roam around with “Who are you to tell me?” attitude. Those don’t work on them. Instead, we should try to make them understand the “Why” of things. Make them conclude that some things are not meant for them.
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