A Teen Made An Anti-Blue Whale Challenge App To Discourage Peers From Playing The Deadly Game
Earlier this year, reports emerged of a horrifying viral trend known as the "Blue Whale Challenge." The "game," which appears to have originated in Russia, prompts players to self-harm and eventually, commit suicide. While it is difficult to verify the number of deaths related to the challenge (estimates range from two to 130), authorities across the globe have been warning parents and guardians to keep an eye out for any sign their child may be engaging in this dangerous game. Now, a Pakistani teen has taken matters into his own hands, and developed an app for an anti-Blue Whale Challenge.
The original Blue Whale game reportedly involves a "master" or "curator" who players interact with on social media. The master supposedly gives participants a set of 50 daily tasks, starting from the fairly benign, like "watch a scary movie," before escalating to self-harm, and eventually, suicide.
The activity's name is reportedly a reference to the fact that Blue whales have been known to beach themselves when they are ready to die.
Waseem Gul's app takes the premise of the challenge, and turns it on its head. Like the original challenge, the 18-year-old's game involves a series of 50 tasks, but instead of being dangerous and destructive, they are fun, goofy, and productive.
Some of Gul's assignments include "Do 10 push ups," "Eat a donut but don’t lick your fingers/lips afterwards," and "Help your parents with a household chore." After you finish your 50th task, you get this encouraging message:
This is not Gul's first app. In 2013, the teenager reportedly developed an Android app called Watch and Earn, which allowed people to earn money by watching videos. (The app's Adsense account was allegedly later banned.)
Gul's new app, which he uploaded on Media Fire, is a valuable counterweight to the dangerous rumors surrounding the Blue Whale challenge. And while many outlets suspect the tales surrounding the game are largely overblown or fabricated, experts worry that even a rumor could have terrible consequences.
As CNN wrote: "The biggest concern is teens who are at risk and may be susceptible to trends and media about suicide, because even if the challenge began as an isolated incident or hoax, it could become real."
In addition to media outlets warning adults, parents, and guardians to look out for signs that their children may be attempting the challenge, or something like it, Instagram has started displaying a message offering mental health support for those who search the hashtag #bluewhalechallenge.
"Posts with the words or tags you're searching for often encourage behavior that can cause harm and even lead to death," the message reads. "If you're going through something difficult, we'd like to help."
The Blue Whale Challenge is the latest in a series of dangerous social media trends. While many online challenges can be harmless and silly — like the Mannequin Challenge, in which participants pose and freeze while someone films them, or the Bottle-Flipping Challenge, in which people fill a plastic water bottle and try to flip it so it lands right-side-up — some can be much more risky, which is why it's important that adults teach kids about the importance of internet safety.
If you or someone you know is taking the Blue Whale Challenge, or experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You can find other mental health resources here.