School districts are taking action to warn parents about child suicide after news spread of the disturbing new game called the 'Blue Whale Challenge'. Mental health professionals say this is another prime example of why parents should be paying attention to what their kids are doing on social media
Dr. Karyn Horowitz specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. She says the game is somewhat similar to online bullying. "I think what may be different about this is the large-scale format." She means that the dialog takes place under the guise of the “blue whale.” But without downplaying the seriousness of it, Dr. Horowitz says she doesn't want to cause mass hysteria.
"What parents need to know is 90% of the time that someone takes their life through suicide, they have an underlying mental health diagnosis. This type of app is probably most concerning for kids that are vulnerable."
Those kids are ones with depression, anxiety, eating disorders,or other psychiatric disorders. "Those are the kids we need to be concerned about and if you're not sure whether your child falls into that category - talk to them."
She suggests taking notice of changes in your child's behavior, mood, or sleep, and if something seems off, that's when you should reach out for help.
Even if your child doesn't show any of those signs, Dr. Horowitz still recommends you use the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ as a learning experience.
"It's a great opportunity to say 'there’s something really unsafe going on right now on social media and we need to have a discussion' and be sure that they're making good decisions."
The “blue whale” originated as an app but was quickly pulled from the app store and has resurfaced as a social media challenge.
Several school districts locally, including Seekonk, Pawtucket and Cranston, have sent out notices to parents, warning them to look out for what their kids might be doing on their phones.
There are several resources for parents who are concerned about their child’s safety and well-being, including Kids’ Link RI and the Samaritans of Rhode Island.