First Published: 2018-02-11

Blue Whale game claims Arab teens lives
The spread of the internet and smart devices has come with increased risks for younger children and teenagers.
Middle East Online

By Roufan Nahhas - AMMAN

A little boy plays a game on a computer

AMMAN - The sometime deadly Blue Whale Challenge, one of the latest crazes in virtual world gaming, has reached Jordanian teens. Schools in Karak governorate, south-west of Amman, reported students inflicting injuries on themselves as part of the 50-day, self-harm challenge.

The Blue Whale Challenge targets teenagers under 15 who are active on social media networks or who possess smartphones, which are largely available among students, said Heyam Qadoumi, a teacher in Amman.

The online challenge, which began in 2016, reportedly consists of 50 daily tasks assigned by an administrator. Many of the tasks involve different forms of self-harm (carving phrases on ones arm, cutting ones lip, making oneself sick, etc.) The final challenge requires the participant to commit suicide.

The incident in Karak was a close call and that is why we need to have more supervision over our students and their online habits, Qadoumi said. The supervision should be conducted at home and school but teachers cannot watch everyone all the time and that is why parents should be stricter regarding their children using the internet and their smart devices.

The spread of the internet and smart devices has come with increased risks for younger children and teenagers left without supervision. In Jordan, there are an estimated 8.7 million internet users and more than 42% of the population uses smartphones.

We were shocked to hear that such behaviour from children is real. All religions forbid people from harming themselves while this Blue Whale Challenge encourages teenagers to kill themselves. As a parent, I have taken several measures to secure my kids online presence and I think people should do the same, said Manal Shehadah, a mother of three.

We need to be extra cautious and everything should be controlled and the most important thing is to have a trustful relationship between children and parents.

There are many challenges online these days and the latest one is the Tide Pod Challenge, in which teenagers film themselves chewing and sometimes swallowing detergents and then posting the videos online as a challenge to others to try, Qadoumi said.

The American Association of Poison Control Centres (AAPCC) said there were approximately 40 cases of detergent ingestion reported in 2018, with almost half of them intentionally ingested, media reports said.

There are many easily accessible online games which teenagers and children can download for free like the Blue Whale Challenge, said Jordanian IT expert Feras Farhan. All these games are based on manipulating a persons inner self, usually targeting vulnerable youngsters who are antisocial or solitary.

Parents should watch closely every step taken by their children on their smart devices. We need to spread awareness about the dangers of online games that are based on violence because they affect childrens behaviour at home and in school, Farhan added.

The Blue Whale Challenge has reportedly contributed to teenagers death in North Africa, as well. Earlier this year in northern Tunisia, a 16-year-old died after falling from the roof of her home. Her friends reportedly testified she had been playing the online game but her father was adamant that her death was an accident.

In 2017, seven Algerian children reportedly killed themselves while following instructions from the Blue Whale Challenge. The game is also said to have led to one teenagers death in Morocco.

The Public Security Department said Jordan recorded 120 cases of suicide for reasons not related to the Blue Whale Challenge in 2016 and 104 during the first nine months of 2017.

Figures show that suicide cases are more common among people between the ages 18 and 27. Amman recorded the countrys highest number of suicides and suicide attempts, followed by Irbid and Karak.

Suicides committed by non-Jordanians, many by Syrian refugees, constituted 17% of total cases in the first nine months of 2017.

Roufan Nahhas, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.


Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Sudan leader backs Sisi election bid

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Iraqis flock to flea market for relics of bygone era

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM

Israel punishes family members of West Bank attacker

Syria opposition says UN 'failed to prevent' Assad 'crimes'

UK tries to soothe Egyptian anger over mob attack death

Hundreds of thousands flee in dual Syria assaults

Turkish Cypriots vow to stand firm in gas dispute

Intensifying assaults in Syria spark dual evacuations

Tearful reunions, uncertain fates for Syrians fleeing Ghouta

Iran deal signatories meet as Trump deadline looms

Thirty years on, Kurds remember Halabja massacre

Air India says will fly over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv

UN chief calls for end to Lebanese 'meddling' in Syria

Turkey seeks jail for journalists opposing government

UN says civilians trapped, used as 'human shields' in Afrin

Iran, Russia, Turkey hold Syria talks in Astana

Civilians killed in Turkish fire on Syria's Afrin

US Defense Secretary says Iran 'mucking around' in Iraq elections

No room for debate in Egyptian elections

Thousands flee Syria's Ghouta after month-long bombardment

Israel closes migrant detention centre in expulsion plan