The Shifting Sands of Social Media!
Change is the only constant, “they” say; and the digital world is a perfect example of that adage. But what “they” forgot to mention is that today’s rapid digital changes have thrown various complexities in our life. Parents to digital natives have so far been concerned mainly about their wards being exposed to adult/explicit websites and vulgar content on the internet. However with the recent rise and wide adoption of social media, new concerns have cropped up on the digital landscape. Exposure to pornography pales in significance to the gamut of issues plaguing children on the internet today. Right from cyber bullying and cyber sexual assault to self harm and international terrorism the internet is playing host to a range of alarming events. Social media, despite its immense benefits in facilitating communication and knowledge sharing, has greatly aided the spread of malicious trends such as those highlighted previously. Take for example the viral popularity of Sarahah! Despite various articles warning about rising cyber-bullying activities on the platform there is a steady if not growing digital beeline for Sarahah on the appstores. Kids know fully well the dangers that they could be exposed to and yet they give in to the “powerful tug” of FOMO.
What is the Blue Whale Challenge?
The “Blue Whale Challenge” is the latest social media nightmare doing the rounds and is attracting a lot of media attention although it has been around the dark alleys of the internet from early 2013. The game might sound innocuous at first, but that’s where all the innocence ends; as participants are psychologically prodded to end their lives. The “game” seems to have been the sick brainchild of Philipp Budeikin who has been single-handedly responsible for inciting the death of at least 16 Russian school girls. Media reports claim that the game had an almost genocidal angle to it; with Philipp claiming that he wished to “cleanse society” of all waste. Despite its seemingly modest beginnings in a remote corner of Russia, the “game” has since almost developed into a cult led by administrators across the globe who ultimately push participants to commit suicide. The “game” has now spread across Europe, North America, and Asia snowballing into a major internet/social media concern.
“There are people – and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. Who cause or will cause only harm to society. I was cleaning our society of such people.” - Philipp Budeikin, alleged creator of the Blue Whale Challenge
What Can Parents Do?
The knee-jerk reaction would be to ban social media and the internet. But that would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater! The digital environment today serves as the window to the world, so shutting it up for your kids isn’t an option. So here’s a checklist for parents to keep in mind for safeguarding their children from the Blue Whale challenge:
- Keep your eyes open to the latest internet trends; especially fads among teens.
- Your child probably knows about the Blue Whale Challenge thanks to all the internet and media frenzy surrounding the game. Take some time out to explain the concerns about this online challenge with resorting to undue scaremongering!
- If you notice unusual changes in your child’s behaviour pattern such as lack of sleep, moodiness, a general disinterested outlook, self-inflicted wounds (cuts, scratches etc.) or poor grades at school please monitor your child’s online activities.
- Stay up-to-date about your child’s activities at school. Check with teachers on your child’s progress or participation regularly. Teachers might notice something that you might have missed.
- In case you find that your child is playing the Blue Whale Challenge, confiscate any internet device they might access and inform local law enforcement about your predicament at the earliest.
- Talk to school authorities and also consult a psychologist to help your child return to the fold of normalcy.