As technology advancement in Kerala seemingly starts backfiring with the two suspected incidents of suicide owing to the ‘Blue Whale’ challenge, the State public officials including legislators and police have come forward to make the public vigilant against the threats posed by the game.
Following the parents of a teenager who supposedly committed suicide to finish off the challenge, alleging that the boy had lost life to the game, Raju Abraham MLA on August 9 had placed a submission before the State Assembly urging the Government to take steps to ban the killer game. Following this, the Kerala Chief Minister has asked the Centre to intervene into the issue and has urged the Prime Minister to take immediate steps to ban the game.
‘Blue Whale’ challenge, which originated in Russia in 2013, is a dare-based online game which persuades the individuals who play it to commit suicide at its final stage. Almost 4,000 people around the world have committed suicide as instructed by the challenge. Twenty-two-year-old Phillipp Budeikin, who invented the game in 2013 is reportedly serving prison sentence for persuading individuals to commit suicide. A 16-year-old boy in Thiruvanathapuram and a 22-year-old man in Kannur are suspected to have committed suicide as instructed by the game.
With the parents of the youngsters suspecting that the deaths were caused by the killer game, the Kerala police’ cyber cell has started acting on the issue and has published posters alerting the public against the threat the game poses. A poster published by Cyberdome of the Kerala Police says that playing the ‘Blue Whale’ game was dangerous. Cyberdome is the technological research and development centre of Kerala Police working in public-private partnership mode to prevent crimes based on high-end technology. It is also informed that the Kerala police was asking all individuals who have already downloaded the challenge to uninstall the game.
Raju Abraham in his submission had pointed out that at least 2,000 people have downloaded the challenge already. Meanwhile the Kerala police have not confirmed the deaths were owing to the game. “Police have not yet confirmed that the suicides were caused by the game. Since this is something very new, thorough study has to be done before reaching at a conclusion. The parents allege that the youngsters lost life to the game as they had clues that the duo was engaged in such activity. Anyway no cases have been reported in the district as of now,” said Ernakulam Deputy Police Commissioner Karuppasamy R. IPS. He said that only after the police learning about the game and its social impacts, the force can decide on what manner they should operate.
K S Sabarinadhan MLA told The Kochi Post that youngsters lacking social and family attachment is the root cause of such maladies. “This is a social issue more than a technological issue. Our miniscule families do not communicate with the youngsters in the way they actually desire. So they get engaged in other activities which are easily not noticed by other family members. The best way to ward off these villainous activities from our societies is to build a strong and supportive family system where each member communicates with the other,” he opined.
Online game addiction
Psychologists in the State are also worried about the consequences of the proliferation of these online games. Dr. Jamila K. Warrier, consultant psychologist at KIMS, Thiruvanathapuram, said that though she had not yet consulted anyone addicted to ‘Blue Whale’, there has been a surge in the number of cases she attended in the past few years, related to online game addiction.
“Most of the patients who reach here are teenagers or young adults. At this age, people have the natural tendency to make a peer group outside house where they would get lauded by friends for their so-called adventures. People with hyper activity often end up in such addictions. Besides, those who lack enough care from their close relatives find solace in addictive games. We cannot ask them to gradually reduce gaming. The only way to act upon such patients is to do whatever required stopping that addiction all of a sudden. ‘Blue Whale’ is something more serious as it encourages the player to commit suicide. Encouraging youngsters to build strong familial and social bonds is the only way to safeguard them from ending up in these challenges,” she said.
(Cover image is a warning issued by the Cyberdome of Kerala Police against ‘Blue Whale’ game)