Over the weekend we watched a very honest Netflix Mini Series titled “13 Reasons Why” , based on the novel written by Jay Asher. I have not read the book and I am only basing my thoughts on what was watched. I have not navigated the teen years yet with my child and will take any guidance and help that is provided by my peers and family. With that all said- I feel that this series in important to watch as a parent, regardless of the age of your children. It created open conversation between my husband and I of our fears and anxieties of raising a child in a very different landscape than we had as children and teenagers. As children of the 80’s and 90’s, we have no point of reference of living under social media. We plain old did not have this pressure as a teenager, so therefore it is hard to understand it and relate to it, when it comes to parenting our children. Let’s think about it- scrutiny and judgement are constants in the life of teenagers. When we were kids this judgement was really only upon us when we walked into the school doors, or onto the ball court, or at the mall. Home was a safe space, where we could escape being under the constant eye of our peers. We didn’t have to worry about a photo of us that may not be flattering or inappropriate circling the entire school in a matter of minutes. Rumors were spread through word of mouth and through all night telephone calls- peer to peer. Now rumors are spread to the entire world in a second via outlets like Facebook or Twitter. Let’s be real- kids can be downright cruel to each other without the capability of really understanding how their actions can affect the emotions and wellbeing of their peers. Science tells us the frontal lobe of teenagers is still a work in progress. While adults can use rational processes when making decisions, teens are not equipped to think through things the same way.
I received an email today about a new very dangerous game called the Blue Whale Challenge. I had heard about this before in passing, but really didn’t think to read about it, until now. So why is it called the Blue Whale Challenge? It has this name because whales will often beach themselves and then ultimately die. This game seeks out at risk or vulnerable youth via social media outlets and can be downloaded as an app on mobile devices (it is my understanding that google and apple have banned this app- but it can still be found). This game takes place over a course of 50 days with the intent of the gamer to complete certain tasks during a 50 day duration. Each gamer is assigned an administrator that gives them tasks to complete. The tasks start out somewhat harmless to include things like watching certain horror movies, listening to certain songs, and waking up at odd hours of the night. The tasks become increasingly malicious to include self-harm, taking foolish risks like standing on roof tops, and trying drugs and alcohol. Gamer’s then show proof of their actions to their administrator. The end goal of the game is to commit suicide on the 50th day. Teens that may get cold feet playing the game are often cyber bullied by their administrator and then threaten the gamer to leak personal information or to even harm their family members. This game is gaining notoriety around the world and it is feared in Russia that this game has lead to the suicide of 130 teenagers. The inventor of this sick game is Philipp Budeikin and he is being held on charges for inciting at least 16 schoolgirls to kill themselves. He told police that he thinks of the victims as “biological waste” and he was “cleansing society”. This level of disregard and cruelty is terrifying, but is also so frightening that our kids are so mind controlled to think that committing suicide is a cool or a viable way to express emotions.
Here are the facts on teen suicide. Suicide rates among American Youth is at an all-time high and is the 2nd leading cause of death among American Youth aged 10-24. Take a moment, let that sink in. More American youth die by suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED. The rate of suicide among girls aged 10-14 years has more than tripled in the last few years. If this does not wake YOU up, I don’t know what will.
Our children need us involved in their daily lives. Our children need us to ask the hard questions. Our children need us to limit their social media/smart phone use. Our children need us to make time for them, to listen to them, to take them places, eat dinner with them, and show them how to become a productive part of society. Our children need us to put down our devices and lead by example. Everyone is so busy these days juggling work, finances, sports, our own social media addition and it has become way easier to hand our kids the phone or not argue with our teens over the privilege of having an iPhone. I want to encourage you to monitor your children’s online activity and talk to them about suicide and this game. Just as sex education should not be a taboo conversation with children, neither should suicide prevention. We have to open doors to children and allow them the opportunity to communicate not only their victories but their worries, strife, struggles and anger- as strange or as silly as their problems may seem to us, they are important to them.
My challenge to you: put your device down, put your adult concerns aside and talk to your teen tonight about suicide and the Blue Whale Challenge. If this post can create one conversation between parent and child, I will have done my job as a mother, daughter and aunt . If you feel your child or someone you know may be at risk contact the Suicide Prevention Life Line at 1-800-273-8255 or visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.