The Blue Whale Challenge continues to spread online, and now the viral app that calls on contestants to harm themselves and eventually commit suicide is being blamed for the first confirmed deaths in the United States.
The app has been spreading online in recent months, with reports that the challenge grew popular in Russia and then spread to Europe before taking hold in the United States. The Blue Whale Challenge consists of a series of escalating challenges for participants, starting with simple tasks like watching a horror movie and progressing to self-harm and eventually suicide on the final step.
There were reports that the game claimed the lives of several teenagers in Europe, and now the United States has its first deaths officially connected to the game. In Georgia, the family of a teenager who took her life have discovered clues showing that she was participating in the Blue Whale Challenge online. As Uproxx reported, the deceased teen’s brother found a sketch with the name “Rina Palenkova” written underneath. Through an internet search, the brother learned that Rina Palenkova was the name of a 2015 victim of the game.
The report noted that investigators are now trying to see if the girl had been in contact with anyone online who led her to the game or encouraged her to participate. In Russia, there have been a handful of arrests for people pushing the game, including a man named Philip Budeikin, who confessed to inventing the Blue Whale Challenge.
At the same time, the death of a 15-year-old boy in San Antonio, Texas, is being linked to the Blue Whale Challenge. The family of Isaiah Garcia said they found signs that the boy had been playing the game. He was found dead after apparently hanging himself in his closet.
The parents said they had no indication that he was suicidal.
“We had no signs at all,” Jorge Gonzalez told KSAT of his son. “Isaiah was Isaiah.”
As the Blue Whale Challenge continues to spread online, experts are warning parents to keep close watch over their children’s internet activity, and many school districts are even sending letters to parents warning about the dangers of the game.
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