Teenagers across the globe are reportedly committing suicide as part of a dangerous internet game called the Blue Whale Challenge.
Two families in the U.S. believe the game is to blame for their children’s recent suicides and are now warning other parents to monitor their teens’ social media activity.
A Texas family said they had no reason to believe that their son, Isaiah, was planning to take his own life.
“We had no signs at all. Isaiah was Isaiah,” Jorge Gonzalez told KSAT.
But on the morning of July 8, Jorge found his son hanging in his bedroom closet. His cell phone had been propped up against a shoe and used to livestream the suicide.
Jorge is convinced that Isaiah killed himself as a result of the Blue Whale Challenge.
The game reportedly takes place over several weeks and entails a series of 50 dares, including self-mutilation, listening to bizarre music and drinking bleach. The final dare is suicide.
Teen participants are targeted by predators through social media apps and internet chat rooms. The New York Daily News reports that the participants are typically threatened into playing the game and completing the various tasks.
Jorge said he learned of the game before Isaiah’s suicide. When he asked him about it, Isaiah told him that he was aware of it but would never think to participate in it.
“I want [other parents] to go through their [kids’] phones, look at their social media,” Jorge told KSAT. “If they’re on that challenge already, they can catch that from happening.”
Isaiah’s family says he sent images of himself completing the tasks to his friends. He also indicated to them that the endgame was suicide.
“They blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, [if] one of them would have called us, he would have been alive,” said Isaiah’s sister, Scarlett Cantu-Gonzales.
In Georgia, another family is going public with the story of their teen’s suicide, and they’re also speaking out against the Blue Whale Challenge.
The unidentified victim was a 16-year-old girl.
“A funny girl,” her mother told CNN. “Like to make silly faces [and] the puppy face when she wanted something.”
The girl was also a talented artist, and her family believes there were clues in her paintings.
“So these were paintings that she drew that were displayed at an art show at school,” the girl’s brother said. “At first look, you don’t think anything of it, you just think of an abstract painting.”
But a closer look reveals an eerie connection.
“If you were to Google ‘what a skeleton of a blue whale looks like,’ it has a tremendous resemblance,” he said.
After hearing about the challenge, the girl’s mother began doing some investigating. That’s when things started falling into place.
“I start researching and start reading more about the game, what it’s asking,” she said. “Then I start to put some of the pieces — how during the weekend she asked me to step on the roof of the house.”
“I realized one of the pictures is from our roof, and it’s something that the game asked.”
While authorities say they aren’t sure whether the game actually exists, the 16-year-old’s family has no doubt.
“It’s a real thing,” her brother said. “I lost my sister to it, or at least part of it. I would say by the looks of everything we found it’s a major part of it.”
“And there needs to be awareness, people need to know, parents need to know, to look for signs, to monitor their kids a little better,” he continued. “And try to know and understand who they’re talking to and when.”
Some reports indicate that the game has its origins in Russia, where at least 130 people have fallen prey to it. In June, Russian police arrested 26-year-old Ilya Sidorov, a postman whom they described as the game’s mastermind. He is alleged to have recruited 32 children for the purposes of driving them to suicide, according to The Independent.