Wellesley school superintendent warns families about dangerous “challenge”

Superintendent of Wellesley Schools, Dr. David Lussier, has sent out an email to parents warning about a deeply creepy “game” that has been making the rounds on social media for the past several months. In “The Blue Whale Challenge,” participants are encouraged to carry out a list of fifty tasks that start out with cutting, move on to desensitizing oneself to heights by, say, going to a roof and standing on the edge, and culminating in suicide. Throughout the tasks, the administrator, known as the “whale”, who does not participate in the tasks, is said to require proof through pictures and other occasional check-ins. The term blue whale comes from the phenomenon of beached whales, which is likened to suicide.

Although some reports of the challenge have been uncovered as a hoax, the family of a Texas teen says that it believes the sinister game led to its 15-year old son’s death. In addition, at least two administrators have been arrested in the past few months by police who have taken it all very seriously: an unrepentant Philipp Budeikin, 21, was arrested by Russian police earlier this spring, claiming that his victims were nothing more than biological waste and that he was simply cleansing society. In June, Ilya Sidorov, 26, a Moscow postman, was arrested in that city and reportedly told police that he had developed the “game.”

Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Britain and France have also reported the existence of Blue Whale groups.

Here’s the letter from Supt. Lussier:

Dear Members of the Wellesley Community,

I want share information that school districts across the state have received about a dangerous social media app called, “The Blue Whale Challenge.” The Blue Whale Challenge is an app that instructs its participants (many preteens) to carry out increasingly dangerous tasks and self-harm over 50 days. Users are encouraged to tag friends on social media and ‘challenge’ them to participate in the game.

USA Today (May 25, 2017) reported on how it works – “Over the course of 50 days, an anonymous administrator assigns kids self-harm tasks. The challenges may start by asking kids to watch a scary movie and then grow increasingly dangerous to include acts like cutting. On the 50th day, the participant is supposed to commit suicide. The game can reach kids through social-media channels like Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube and texting.”

It’s very concerning because these apps are targeting a very vulnerable population. We would encourage parents to:

* ask your kids if there are ANY new games or popular challenges that they or their friends are hearing about or playing on social media or online

* search for hashtags like #BlueWhaleChallenge and/or photos of a blue whale on your kids’ social media accounts.

This message is not meant to alarm anyone, but rather to encourage parents to be proactive in protecting their children from potential negative influences on the internet.

Best regards,

David Lussier