Muscat: Schools and universities in Oman have issued warnings about the dangers of an online game that tries to manipulate players into killing themselves while broadcasting their suicides.
While no cases of this game have been reported in Oman, more than 300 incidents have been recorded all over the world, with a 15-year-old boy in San Antonio in the US and a 14-year-old teen in Mumbai, India being the latest to take their own lives after playing this game, broadcasting their deaths via social media.
Educators in Oman have expressed shock and concern over the game, and have taken steps to warn teens from playing it.
“We have sent messages to all of the parents and teachers through our class-wise WhatsApp groups, and we will be elaborating this in a circular to be issued later this week. I will treat this as a serious case,” said P. Prabhakar, Principal of Indian School Al Mabella. “We will be referring our students to our counselling department beforehand, because prevention is better than cure.”
“The term has just begun, so we will soon be issuing a notice to the children,” added Norlyn Cura, Acting Principal at the Philippine School, Muscat. “They must not play this particular game, because it will definitely affect their studies and it is sure to have psychological effects as well.
“Don’t play these games online because they will definitely affect the children,” she added. “Parents and children need to be watchful with what they are doing online.”
The Blue Whale game – which is accessible online and through social media – provides teens with a list of 50 horrific tasks to complete in 50 days, as they’re more vulnerable than adults.
Tasks include waking up early morning to watch psychedelic and scary videos, participants cutting themselves on their hands and legs, and climbing to the top of high-rise structures.
They’re monitored via chats with the administrators, colloquially called ‘whales’, and the final task orders players to take their lives.
These despicable acts were also strongly condemned by Jasim Al Balushi, deputy head of Education and Professional Development at the Caledonian College.
“It is good that this has been brought to our attention, as we will now issue brochures in our college to deal with this,” he told Times of Oman. “This is very sad, and all of these games that are appearing are very dangerous. Education about this needs to start at family and school level, and even universities. All families should know about the dangers of this game. If you go to them, you are digging your grave.
“Our children can be easily targeted, especially if there are some emotional elements in these games,” he added. “It is easy to alter their minds, and we need to create alternative games that work against games like Blue Whale. Today, a lot of apps are being used to target children, and we need to work from within these apps. These games will cause harm across the entire world, and will destroy the conditions of humanity. This is really shocking.”
Yaqoob Al Naimi, a counsellor at the Mossa Bin Nasir public school, also stressed the need for awareness.
“I believe that any kind of awareness in this matter is positive,” he said. “We always need to be careful, bust most young people in Oman are only partially integrated into other cultures. I think this should not affect Omanis the way it does other cultures. We have a culture of stubborn strength, so people might try to beat this killer game, and there is a danger in that as well.”
The Blue Whale is the twisted brainchild of 22-year-old Russian Philip Budeikin, a former psychology student who was expelled from university. He was recently sentenced to three years in jail for inciting to kill students, and Dr. Fabian Saarloos, clinical psychologist at Al Harub Medical Centre, says this is a very serious matter.
“The person who designed this was a psychology student, so he knows all the tricks,” he explained. “If you look at the techniques being used, these are used in the military to make people more aggressive, or are used in prison to break people’s resistance. Their self-confidence goes really low, and accepting these challenges makes their resistance go lower and lower. Your brain gets weakened and accepts these challenges.
“This is quite scary,” added Saarloos. “This is sick idea of evolution and natural selection. Get your child to trust you so that he can confide in you before he develops suicidal thoughts, and once he is able to talk to you, he does not have to look up these sites.”