Rehan HoodaSep 07, 2017 19:31:46 IST
A number of schools across Mumbai are holding workshops to increase awareness against the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ (BWC). The schools have also issued circulars to students and their parents to ensure that parents keep a check on the internet activity of their students.
According to a report by Times of India, this comes right after an International school in South Mumbai discovered that one of its students was playing BWC. This prompted the school to issue the circular pointing out in the report that the school makes all efforts to help its students to encourage safe choices in the cyber world.
Workshops to create awareness about BWC in Indian schools
St Anne’s High School in Colaba conducted an interactive workshop with over 500 students on 6 September 2017 to ensure that students are aware of the pros and cons of social media. The principal of the school, sister Laila D’Souza pointed out that the students had a lot of questions about social media that it was good to start the discussion.
According to the report, D Sivanandhan, the former state director-general said that parents and schools can do much more to tackle the game than the police because of their proximity to the children.
He emphasised that newspapers and the media should help increase awareness of the game as well. He also added that government of India has written to social media giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others to block BWC.
Blue Whale Challenge decoded
These workshops and statements come right after the number suicide attempts and reports of students playing BWC skyrocketed. The thing to note here is that India is not the only country that is dealing with the menace caused by BWC. For the uninitiated, BWC challenge is a ‘game’ where BWC curators look for the right kind of people who can play the game. Once the player agrees to join the game, the curator or administrator sends 50 challenges to the player that they need to complete.
As previously reported, the challenge started from Russia and gradually spread across the world. According to Russian website Saint Petersburg, the game started in Russia in 2013 with a group called ‘F57’ on Russian social media website VKontakte. This and other BWC groups were termed as ‘death groups' as people in the group were more likely to cause harm to themselves because of participating in the game.
Their challenges include watching horror movies, causing harm to one's self, waking up early in the morning to listen to certain music and contemplate death. The last challenge part of the ‘game’ is to commit suicide. Players who express to leave the game mid-way are issued threats by the curator warning them that their parents and family will be harmed if they leave the game. The game lures minors by invoking their inquisitive nature as they are curious about the new ‘game’. Then it plays on their lack of awareness and fear to keep them from leaving the game. The curators or administrators manage a group of BWC players at any given time and media has termed the death toll associated to BWC has climbed to a significant level.
Here is how affected countries are combating the 'game'
About 19 countries have reported incidents related to BWC. Cities and governments across the world have issued warnings regarding the game asking parents to actively monitor online activity of their children. Russia, being the country where the BWC started, arrested Philipp Budeikin, the alleged founder of BWC along with Ilya Sidorov. The Russian parliament then quickly passed the bill to introduce criminal punishment to anyone makes the ‘death groups’ that urge minors to commit suicide. The punishment for the people who engage in the creation of these groups is six years in prison as reported by Russian news agency Tass. This bill comes in addition to a separate bill, which would require ISPs in Russia to ban all the websites and forums related to these ‘death groups'.
Other countries like China has resorted to censoring the internet for BWC-related content. The internet regulator in the country started keeping a watch on BWC content after the authorities noticed a surge of people playing the game in the country. Brazil is taking steps that are similar to India where schools are promoting lectures and discussions in school to warn minors about the BWC.
Steps taken by authorities against BWC across the world need to be emphasised to ensure that no stone is unturned to tackle the problem. The reason for this emphasis is because the number of countries is not limited to 19 and is most likely to increase with time if left unchecked.
Welcome to Tech2 Innovate, India’s most definitive youth festival celebrating innovation is being held at GMR Grounds, Aerocity Phase 2, on 14th and 15th February 2020. Come and experience an amalgamation of tech, gadgets, automobiles, music, technology, and pop culture along with the who’s who of the online world. Book your tickets now.