The #WHITE WHALE CHALLENGE for parents and educators
Around the world parents and teachers have been grappling with their children falling prey to the Blue Whale Challenge, a game that has 50 levels and ultimately results in the death of the child/teen who plays it.
Its time for parents and teachers to learn the #WHITE WHALE CHALLENGE to tackle this menace that is striking kids and ruining the lives of hundreds of families.
First it is important that everyone is aware of the steps of the blue whale challenge to understand the psychology behind the whole challenge. Here is a gist of how the steps generally go:
· Wake up at 4.20 am
· Tell your best friend that you hate them, this will lead to alienation of the teenager,
· Then they have to watch a scary movie at midnight; usually the movie is ‘The Ring’.
· Once they have completed this stage they can update their status to #iamawhale.
· Through out the next steps Teen is asked to hear sound clips, watch scary movies, Skype calls with other blue whalers, poke needles into their body or pins in their cheeks.
· If teen wants to back out then they are threatened with dire consequences
· For the grand finale, they are asked to make an incision a day, watch scary movies and listen to the audio tapes on loop,
· Last step is meeting a fellow blue whaler, and committing suicide after posting The End on their social media status.
Now lets analyze what happens and why certain teenagers become susceptible to this game and some don’t:
1. The game is all about alienation, keeping the teen away from others so that the teen can be brainwashed. This is easy because teens, as it is don’t like to interact with family much. So teens that don’t have a strong attachment to at least one family member will fall prey to this.
Solution- work on your attachment with your child as early as possible, attachment is not clinging, it means trust, independence and children able to confide without being interrogated)
2. The first step is smartly thought of- alienation from friends. Teens seek peer validation, so this game smartly keeps them away from any kind of peer dependence by making them say ‘I hate you’ to their best friend.
Solution- know your child’s friends, and have that kind of a link where people can come and tell you if they notice something different in your child, this can only happen if you stop being defensive when people tell you negative things about your child.
3. Waking up early when the world is sleeping, watching horror movies, hurting or piercing the body are all appealing to the risk taking brain of the teenager. The teenage brain thrives on risks and challenges. Because they have still not reached complete impulse control, they are unable to differentiate between good or bad, safe or unsafe, and sometimes to feel challenged or fulfilled will end up taking spur of the moment decisions. Remember how we would play the game ‘truth or dare’ or we would call spirits during sleepovers? Well, every generation liked to take risks, but our risks were with friends and family. Whereas this is a risk that is taken alone because it hinges on alienation and that is why it is scary and needs to be stopped.
Solution- is your child allowed to take safe risks or do you hover and molly coddle even your teenager? When children can’t take their own decisions or simple everyday safe risks then they don’t know what risk is and will fall head first into tricky situations. So allow children to take risks. Dads are very good at this as they lack the ‘molly coddle’ gene!
4. It is a completely technology based game. Kids are fascinated with all kinds of technology not only because it fulfills their need for ‘exploring’ but also fulfills their need for ‘independent exploring’.
Solution- trust children with technology but first train them on do’s and don’t. It starts with how our children see us using the Internet and social media sites. When parents use social media they should talk about it in conversations that include comments like- “I got an invite or poke from so and so and I did not accept as I was not sure about the identity and want to be safe.” “ I don’t think I will post this photo as I feel it is a little personal and I don’t want to share it with the whole world” when children hear and see us being safe rather than casual then it translates into their own behavior and choices.
Make simple rules for them for their social media use-
a) You will not share your date of birth, address and phone number or email id.
b) You will not post personal photos, the definition being no cleavage, bare chest (for boys of course!) or photos that look sultry rather than fun.
c) You will not post your daily schedule.
d) Think before you bare your emotions on social media, people are just reading, and forwarding, so if you have issues discuss with your family.
e) Just like there are predators on the street and when you were young we taught you not to talk to strangers or take things from them or go anywhere with them, similarly for social media we are telling you not to make friends with someone you do not know, do not give them any photos or information if they ask and do not visit any sites if they ask you. There are predators on the net too.
Another thing is to discuss Internet related crimes during healthy discussions in the family rather than adopt an attitude of ‘I told you so’. So when such crimes of identity theft or cyber kidnapping or blue whale reports are reported in the media, turn it into a healthy thinking brain discussion with points like- ‘what do you think went wrong and made things easy for this predator? ‘How would you have avoided falling into a trap like this’? This will help your teenager take charge of decision-making and you would have equipped him/her to take thought-through decisions.
5. Kids find the blue whale game challenging and interesting for their brains- Marie Evans Schmidt and Elizabeth Van dewater review research on links between various types of electronic media and the cognitive skills of school-aged children and adolescents. When it comes to particular cognitive skills, say the authors, researchers have found that electronic media, particularly video games, can enhance visual spatial skills, such as visual tracking, mental rotation, and target localization. Gaming may also improve problem-solving skills.
Solution- ensure that your child finds school and daily schedule interesting and challenging for the brain. Otherwise boredom or stress can leave them wanting the challenge and excitement of such games. Allow gaming but not those that have violence.
6. And the last is fear and threats: teenagers become susceptible to it if their parents use threats and fear in their parenting. The designer of this game knows that most children are disciplined with fear and threats (around the world) and so made use of this against the teen.
Solution- stop threatening your child and instilling fear about consequences. Stop this right from the beginning, don’t let it creep into your parenting. Children who are brought up with positive behavior management will never fall prey to such threats and fears as they are brave and know that their parents are and will always be with them.
A concerned citizen Geeta Punjabi from Mumbai posted on one of our Early Childhood Association Whatsapp group and I quote- “Can someone make an online game which is exactly the opposite of Blue Whale, in which tasks are like meeting friends, talking to your family member, having potluck one day picnic, late night watching funny movies, visiting your native place, playing old days games. And at the end everyone is able to restore life, perhaps much better than the life we are living now.”
So here is the White Whale Challenge- play it with your teenager, make it viral- #whitewhalechallenge (you can even make your own and here is an appeal to all those app developers please bring in the white whale challenge)
1. All the levels have to be done before 10.00pm. No level or posting can happen after 10.00 pm. Begin with posting on social media #whitewhalechallengeiamsmart
2. They must go and tell their best friend 3 good things they like about them and post a picture on Facebook with them.
3. Watch a comedy movie with your friends.
4. Start a donation drive and collect enough materials for the local orphanage. Have a competition with friends, post on Facebook. No money to be collected only things like clothes, toys, food packets, books etc.
5. Have a Halloween theme party or a zombie theme party at home. (Don’t expect teens to turn into angels, not possible, so give them the macabre within limits!)
6. Spend one Sunday with your family.
7. Sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6pm for 5 consecutive days.
8. Arrange a treasure hunt across the city
9. Have a sleep over at a friends place and watch 3 movies throughout the night (one horror, one comedy and one thriller)
10. Post pictures of all of the above tasks completed (remember before 10pm) on Facebook or snapchat, or twitter and end the 10 steps by posting #whitewhalewins.
Experts propose “meeting youth where they are riding the airwaves—with positive messages that compete with and offer attractive alternatives to the negative, unhealthful, or illegal messages they are exposed to every minute.”