Texas family says Blue Whale Challenge inspired their teen to commit suicide
EL PASO, Texas —
A San Antonio family is blaming a social media game for the suicide of their son.
The family of 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez says their son was playing the Blue Whale Challenge and it inspired him to commit suicide.
The game is believed to have started in Eastern Europe. It assigns a series of tasks to players over the course of 50 days. The tasks start small and get worse over time.
“It starts very benign game. They start doing challenges that are not necessarily bad and so it's a grooming process that they do. They get them desensitized to do certain bigger things like suicide,” said child counselor Zul Estrada from Associated Behavioral and Trauma Specialties, LLC.
Throughout the process, the participant is in touch with a so-called curator who tells them what to do and when to do it.
Online, numerous social media users can be found trying to play the game and asking a curator to contact them.
Estrada says teenagers are likely the target of these games.
“Teenagers and adolescents are very vulnerable right now because social media is a very important part of their lives as we speak. So a lot of the things we see do resonate pretty strongly with them,” Estrada said.
She said some teenagers are more vulnerable than others to fall prey to these games.
“When children don't have a strong support system, when they don't have somebody to talk to, when they don't have the skills to be able to cope with every day stressors that all teenagers deal with, I think that's what puts them more at risk,” Estrada said.
She believes it’s important for parents to be involved in their teenagers’ lives, even if it means going through their social media accounts and cell phones.
“It is so important that they know what their kids are getting into, what they see, who they talk to, who their friends are, that way they can intervene or guide them or show them how to pick their friends and how to make better choices,” Estrada said.
She works with children and teens who are experiencing trouble in their lives and need help coping. Estrada says it’s important for parents to know when it’s time to ask for help.
“If your child has shown any kind of self-harm, any kind of bad thoughts or statements about wanting to hurt themselves, ask for help and go to a professional,” she said.
Along with counseling services for kids and teens, Estrada’s team also offers group parent sessions where adults can come in and talk to one another and professionals about the troubles they are dealing with when it comes to their kids and share strategies.