The Professionals Online Safety Helpline has recently seen an increase in the number of calls that they have received about the ‘Blue Whale story’. This advice is for those who are concerned about this story, as well as expert opinions and other news stories to help support professionals and parents who might be concerned about young people online.
What is the ‘Blue Whale story’?
In the last month many media outlets have reported on the so called ‘Blue Whale’ phenomenon which has been claimed to be responsible for a number of teenager’s deaths in Russia.
It is through research and consultation with other colleagues it has come to our attention that the ‘Blue Whale’ is an example of a sensationalised fake news story.
Snopes, online fact checking website, have found that although there have been reports of young people committing suicide in Russia over the last six months, of these reported cases none have been found to have had a conclusive tie to the 'Blue Whale'.
Penny Patterson from the London Grid For Learning (LGFL) and Havering educational services has said this in response to the reports of the Blue Whale story:
‘The issue with sharing specific alerts is that adults will, with the right intentions, focus on the specifics of the story and so may be less open to the signs and symptoms of harm and abuse. The child must be at the centre of our concerns, and if it took a news story to make us take a child self-harming, such as the ‘Blue Whale’ hoax, as a serious concern then we have to question our own commitment to and understanding of safeguarding.’
E-safety expert Anne Collier addressed the myths about the ‘Blue Whale’ in her blog www.netfamilynews.org/blue-whale-game-fake-news-teens-spread-internationally
The internet is constantly changing, and new issues and online platforms are arising all the time. We would advise parents and carers to have an open and honest conversation with their children. Ask your children about what they’re seeing online, talk through some of the issues that this game has brought to light, such as self-harm and negative influences online. The NSPCC has some great advice for when you need to talk about difficult topics.
It’s important that your children feel that they are able to come and talk to you about any issues they may be having online. Although it may seem difficult to have this conversation, we have some conversation starters that can help you to start a discussion with your family about their time online.
Other things to consider to keep your child safe online are:
- Age restrictions: Think about the age restrictions on the sites you family use. Common Sense Media and Net Aware are great sites to see what other parents think of the age rating on different platforms so that you can make an informed decision of whether your family should be using them.
- Privacy setting: Most social networking sites have privacy settings to help you manage the content you share and who you share it with; you can decide if you want your posts to be shared with your online friends and followers only or with the public. You can also decide who can contact you on sites you use within the privacy settings.
- Block and report: Make sure you child knows that they can block or report any user that makes them feel uncomfortable online. Childnet have some guidance on how to make reports on different websites.
If you are worried about a child:
- Young Minds is a children’s charities which focuses on young people’s mental health https://youngminds.org.uk
- Papyrus is the national charity for the prevention of young suicide. https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Other helpful links:
- Our Parents’ Guide to Technology gives advice about smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and other internet-connected devices we also have a parents guide to the parental controls offered by your home internet provider.