Parents in Vietnam are on tenterhooks over the growing popularity of an Internet challenge known as Blue Whale, where ‘players’ are asked to complete a series of tasks, the final being suicide.
The ‘challenge’ is supposedly administered by an online curator over 50 days, during which the curator gives players daily tasks to accomplish and requires them to submit photographic evidence that they have completed each.
Communication between the curator and the participant is typically kept private.
Tasks increase in difficulty as the game proceeds, namely drawing a blue whale on paper, carving a blue whale on one’s arm with a knife, watching horror movies, killing an animal, and ultimately culminating with suicide.
Blue Whale was first reported by Russian media in 2016.
Since then, hundreds of suicides suspected to have been inspired by the challenge have been reported in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and South America, according to CNN.
No case of suicide has been confirmed to be directly linked to the rumored challenge, and many experts suggest Blue Whale was originally a sensationalized hoax that led to imitative self-harming.
According to parents in Vietnam, the Internet challenge has emerged as a new obsession among the country’s youth who may engage in self-harm due to peer pressure.
Ngan Nguyen, a mother in Ho Chi Minh City, says her ten-year-old daughter knows everything about the game, including its origin, rules, and author.
“It turns out all her classmates in fourth grade know about this ‘game’ through the Internet,” Ngan said.
|A Vietnamese girl films herself completing the Blue Whale challenge in this still photo taken from a video posted on video-sharing site YouTube.|
A quick search on popular social media platforms in Vietnam, including Facebook and Instagram, revealed that the Blue Whale game has become a topic of interest among children and teens looking for instructions on how to play the ‘game’ and complete its tasks.
Clips of Vietnamese children filming themselves completing the challenge and giving ‘tips’ to new players can also be found on social media sites like YouTube.
“Some friends taught me to break the rules by drawing a whale on my arm with a red pen, killing a mosquito, watching cartoons instead of horror movies, and jumping off a bed instead of a building to complete the challenge without actually hurting myself,” said Phuong Anh, a fifth grader in Ho Chi Minh City.
Anh said her classmates are crazy about the challenge and often compete to get the most views for YouTube videos of themselves completing the tasks.
“This trend is potentially dangerous because children are impressionable and often imitate others without thinking about the consequences,” commented Facebook user Ngoc Yen on a post by a worried parent.
Meanwhile, officials in the southern province of Tien Giang refuted rumors on Wednesday that students at a local secondary school were hurting themselves playing the Blue Whale game.
Rumors began in March that students at Cai Be Middle School in Cai Be District, Tien Giang, were cutting their own arms to complete a task in the challenge.
An investigation carried out by provincial authorities found that such rumors are completely unfounded, said Nguyen Van Nhiem, head of propaganda and education of Cai Be District.