Hualien Education Department Investigates ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ Among Teenagers

Hualien Education Department Investigates ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ Among Teenagers
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

Hualien County’s Department of Education has notified all teachers to assist in the investigation into anonymous messages inviting students to join the "Blue Whale Challenge."

Parents of several middle school students in eastern Taiwan reported to local city councilors about anonymous chat groups inviting their children to accept the “Blue Whale Challenge.”

The challenge, essentially a suicide game, demands that participants submit compromising photos and IDs, according to local media. If the participants wish to quit the game early, they would be threatened to have their private information revealed.

Hualien County’s Department of Education said on Tuesday that it has notified all teachers to assist in the investigation.

The principal of a school in Hualien, which was reported to have the challenge circulating in a group chat, said the students only received invitations but did not participate. Other school principals were notified of the incident.

What is the Blue Whale Challenge?

The Blue Whale Challenge, allegedly surfaced in Russia around 2015, has been linked to teen deaths around the world. It is a social network “game” that encourages players to complete tasks within a 50-day period.

The game usually starts with innocuous tasks, such as asking players to lie to their parents, and evolves into inciting acts of self-harm. These challenges include carving a whale on one’s forearm, deciding one’s own date of death, getting up at 4:20 a.m. every day, among others. The final task is to commit suicide.

Players must keep the group updated with pictures to prove the completion of tasks. Since the game “curators” held the players’ sensitive information, many of the victims were hesitant to report the game to the police. In four years since it has first been reported, it has taken on various code names including “Wake Me Up at 4:20,” “Ocean Whales” and “A Room of Serenity.”

How has the challenge affected teenagers around the world?

The creator of the challenge, Philipp Budeikin, was arrested in 2017. He said his intention was to “cleanse the society” and that the victims were “biological waste,” BBC reported.

Despite the arrest, the suicide game has not stopped. Social media accounts that start with “Blue Whale” and the Jigsaw-inspired quote “I wanna play a game” have appeared recently. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms have tried to tackle the problem by offering helplines whenever users search for “Blue Whale Challenge.”

This phenomenon appeared in China and Hong Kong a few years ago. Suicide prevention groups urged the public to be watchful for young people’s behaviors on social media. Samaritans counselor Kate Yu warned that teenagers might not be aware of the risks, advising the public to take “proper and timely intervention” if someone decides to join the challenge.

If you, or anyone you know, needs mental health support, please reach out for help at Taiwan’s Life Line at 1995 or Suicide Prevention Hotline at 0800-788995.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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