There are instances when the online world, for all its benefits, gets dark and disturbing and this is one of them.
Many young people live most of their lives online or on tech and they can become so embroiled in this virtual reality that it affects their real lives.
An online social media group is said to be behind the craze, goading teens into taking their own lives.
Police in Russia, where the game is said to have originated, are investigating the deaths of numerous teens and whether they are linked to the disturbing social media group.
Investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported: “We have counted 130 suicides of children that took place between November 2015 and April 2016. Almost all these children were members of the same internet groups and lived in good, happy families.”
It all starts out as a harmless game, as a group administrator assigns daily tasks to members which they must complete over 50 days.
But the tasks are shocking and include anything from self-harming, watching horror movies to waking up at unusual hours. They become more extreme as the 50th day approaches. On the final day, the manipulators behind the game reportedly instruct youngsters to commit suicide.
Cassey Chambers, operations director at the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), says thus far the organisation hasn’t heard of any cases nationally but it is keeping its ears to the ground. “I’m hoping it doesn’t pick up in SA, but unfortunately online campaigns like this can go viral so quickly,” she adds.
Child rights consultant Joan van Niekerk found it “gobsmacking” that youngsters would let themselves be led astray by complete strangers, saying: “This is really appalling – and obviously aimed at those children who are vulnerable in some way.”
One might also bring into question the authenticity of the game, with many arguing that it could be a hoax.
Whether the game is real or not, Sadag has urged parents to be vigilant and to look out for the warning signs of suicide:
- Talking or joking about suicide.
- Preparing for death.
- Changes in personality.
- Loss of interest in appearance or hygiene.
- It is also imperative to monitor your child’s online activities.
Sadag can be contacted through the following channels:
For counselling queries e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday,
Call: 011 234 4837 / Fax number: 011 234 8182
For a suicidal Emergency contact us on 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14
SMS 31393 (and we will call you back)