Students pose for a group portrait in Moscow, Russia, September 23, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Most games teenagers play are relatively harmless, but according to Israeli authorities there is a new trend this summer that could leave children in serious danger and that parents should beware of.
The worry centers on a game called “Blue Whale,” which originated in Russia, and urges teenagers to complete a series of dangerous and harmful tasks that culminate in the “winner’s” suicide.
According to a letter from the Education Ministry earlier this month obtained by Maariv, parents should be on the lookout for warning signs that their children may be taking part in this game.
“Participants in the game are instructed by the organizer to complete a series of daily tasks over a period of 50 days, at the end of which they are asked to commit suicide,” according to the letter.
The ministry noted that some of the warning signs include dramatic changes in behavior, going out for nighttime activities or getting up very early, writing “I am a whale” as a status on social media and scratching F57 or F58 on to limbs. The tasks range from watching violent movies to cutting off interactions with family and friends and self-harm.
“There are different behaviors that may attest to many different risky processes with a variety of reasons,” according to the letter, “and therefore any indicator should be thoroughly checked out.”
There have been no reported deaths or injuries linked to the game in Israel. The Education Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that it did not send out the letter to parents, but it was an internal directive sent to ministry advisers and experts. The letter appears to have been leaked and circulated among parent groups on WhatsApp and Facebook.
In Russia, police have investigated dozens of suicides and suicide attempts they believe may be linked to the game, according to news reports. Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure that would criminalize behavior inducing minors to commit suicide, according to the Russian TASS news agency.
In the UK, a range of local police forces and school districts have warned parents and educators to be on the lookout for warning signs, but there too, no documented cases exist.
Udi Shaham contributed to this report.