Online suicide challenges like ‘Blue Whale’ must be banned to protect vulnerable teens

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 May, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 May, 2017, 9:11pm

Some popular suicide-related social media games have been trending online lately, especially among youngsters. These include the “Blue Whale” suicide-challenge, a game which asks players to inflict harm on themselves and the final of 50 tasks is to commit suicide in order to win the game.

Shows with dark themes such as the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why have also sparked worry about their glorification of teen suicide and the possible impact on vulnerable young minds.

I am concerned about the impact of such games and shows on Hong Kong students, given all the academic pressure they face. Playing games that incite you to self-harm are very dangerous, as it teaches vulnerable youngsters that suicide or self-harm are good ways to deal with problems in life.

I believe such harmful online content should be banned as, once it becomes a trend, it will have a deeply negative influence on society and future generations.

Most importantly, with most parents working long hours to support their families, their children may feel neglected. In an attempt to try to solve problems on their own, they may resort to extreme means like playing online games with harmful content.

In Singapore, such games and shows have already prompted its Education Ministry to issue advisories on their online publication, Schoolbag. That comes as suicide rates there among 10- to 19-year-olds have hit a 15-year high.

I hope that the Education Bureau in Hong Kong will follow Singapore’s example , by issuing advisories to schools, students and parents on ways to safeguard young minds from such disturbing trends.

I also hope that parents who discover their children have been playing these harmful online games will, rather than scold them harshly, sit down with them and listen to their issues patiently, and help them to sort out the problems they are facing.

Children of today are very vulnerable, and one negative word from parents may cause them to do silly but potentially tragic things which the parents will regret for life.

Thus I sincerely hope that, no matter how busy parents are, they always spare one evening a week to have heart-to-heart talk with their children.

In this way, it is less likely that impressionable youngsters will resort to extreme means to find a way out of their problems.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Shanghai