A San Antonio family who believes their son committed suicide as the result of a deadly internet game is urging parents to monitor their children’s social media activity.
The Blue Whale Challenge presents itself online as a series of 50 tasks — each increasingly macabre — over the course of a couple of weeks. The challenge reportedly ends in suicide, with other tasks including self-mutilation, waking up at odd hours to watch horror movies and drinking bleach.
“I want them to go through their phones, look at their social media,” Jorge Gonzales told KSAT as a warning to other parents. “If they’re on that challenge already, they can catch that from happening.”
Gonzales’ 15-year-old son, Isaiah Gonzales, was found hanging in his bedroom closet Saturday morning. His phone had been propped up to broadcast his death via social media, according to the news station.
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The teen’s family believes he killed himself due to the Blue Whale Challenge.
Predators typically target teen participants through chatrooms and social media and assign them a series of tasks. Some reports suggest the challenge administrator threatens the participant if he or she does not complete the task.
“It talks about Satanic stuff and stuff like that,” Jorge Gonzales told News 4 San Antonio, noting his son sent his friends images of the completed tasks.
Isaiah’s older sister, Alexis, recalled her brother being required to carve a number in his arm.
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Still though, the family noticed no change in Isaiah’s personality. The rising sophomore had just joined the ROTC program at his high school, and his father described him as a jokester.
“We had no signs at all,” Jorge Gonzales said. “Isaiah was Isaiah.”
That’s why the father is insisting parents keep a close eye on their children’s phones.
“Look at it because you can catch it,” he urged.
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And the Gonzales family isn’t the first to deal with tragedy as a result of the online Blue Whale Challenge, according to reports. The family of an unidentified 16-year-old girl from Atlanta was similarly speaking out about the game on Monday after their daughter also committed suicide, CNN reported.
In recent weeks, schools across the country have issued warnings about the Blue Whale Challenge and its potential risks. The Baldwin County Public School district in a notice to parents described it as “a very dangerous game” that “threaten(s) the teenagers with harm to their families or releasing personal information until they kill themselves.”
Still, not a lot is known about the game. In their notice to parents, Park Rose School District in Oregon said “it is not clear if this is a real thing, or an urban legend.”
The game has reportedly popped up through Snapchat and other platforms across the globe, with suicides tied to the Blue Whale Challenge cropping up from Eastern Europe to Brazil, according to the Washington Post. Several reports tie the fad back to Russia, where it is believed at least 130 people have taken their lives in connection with the online task challenge.
Authorities in May arrested 21-year-old Philipp Budeikin for allegedly urging “at least 16 teenagers to kill themselves,” BBC reported. And 26-year-old Ilya Sidorov was accused last June of pushing up to 30 people into suicide, according to the Independent.
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