The fear of Blue Whale Challenge, a set of online tasks that climaxes with the players ending their own lives, is palpable among city schools.
Administrative bodies and top institutes in Delhi-NCR have issued directives to guard against the internet suicide game. While the Central Board of Secondary School has advised schools to ban the use of electronic communication devices including those that can store, record, play audio-visual content, transmit or receive images, the Haryana Children Protection Commission has issued a 17-point advisory to Gurugram schools for keeping a close watch on students and initiating counseling sessions for students from Class 5 to 12.
Other preventive measures include deploying digital surveillance in schools, installation of firewalls, monitoring software mechanism and teaching effective use of internet to students. Most schools that Mail Today contacted appeared keen to oblige as several recent suicides by young students across the country have been linked to the deadly game.
“The moment we heard of the Blue Whale Challenge, we arranged for an interactive workshop by one of the best cyber security experts of the country who spoke to the children about the pitfalls and snares that the world of internet holds within itself,” Dr Vijay Datta, principal of Modern School, Barakhamba Road, told Mail Today.
“The cyber expert counselled groups of and fielded off their queries during various sessions. The school has also banned the use of phones on the premises.”
Other schools also appeared seized of the matter. “This (Blue Whale) Challenge poses a serious threat to our children’s lives. Two-three months back, it was perceived as a hoax but now we know the threat is real,” Ashok Pandey, chairman of the National Progressive Schools Conference and principal of Ahlcon International School, said.
“We have started a cyber threat awareness programme in our school where students are apprised of the situation through workshops and the threats in cyberspace are discussed,” said Pandey. Amity International School, Noida, has gone one step further by launching a “Pink Whale Challenge to tame the monstrous Blue Whale”. “In this initiative, students have to perform one good deed every day and share the joy they receive by doing it with their friends. After 50 days of their daily tasks, students will have to talk about how good they feel,” said Renu Singh, principal of the school.
Besides, the school has resorted to counseling sessions for students. “At present, we have 10 counsellors and we plan to get more onboard soon,” said Singh. Several schools, which declined an official comment, admitted to having started counselling sessions for students dealing with anxiety and initiating “maximum dialogue” and communication between teachers and students in the wake of suicide game.
AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS LAUNCHED
In Gurugram, the HCPC has instructed district education officers in Gurugram to initiate surprise inspections of different schools on daily basis. The city education department has also been directed to launch awareness campaign through social networking sites about the consequence of the deadly game as well as cyberbullying. “We have asked schools to closely monitor the movement of students and initiate counseling if they come across any suspicious behaviour. They have also been asked to send copies of the advisory to parents with similar instructions,” BK Goyal, member of HCPC, told Mail Today. The game consists of a series of tasks assigned to the player by administrator/curator involving self-harm and ‘dares’ during a 50-day period. The ultimate task seeks the user to take the extreme step to complete challenge. Speaking about the psyche of the player, Aashish Soni, an online gaming expert, said that people are not taking blue whale as game. “They are taking it as a task. The game has the concept to cross one hurdle after another and people, especially teenagers, eventually get trapped in it. It create tremendous amount of mental pressure on individuals.”