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NI parent's 'Blue Whale Challenge' self harm concern sparks police warning

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Police have issued a warning to parents

Police have issued a warning to parents

PA Wire/PA Images

Police have issued a warning to parents

Police have issued a warning to parents around an online challenge that encourages children to self harm.

Officers in the Fermanagh and Omagh area said they were contacted by a concerned parent.

The ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ has been categorised as an online challenge that sets teenagers 50 tasks over 50 days.

Reportedly the challenges start out with getting up in the middle of the night or watching a horror movie, and increase in severity, progressing to self-harm and finally encouraging children to take their own lives.

It is thought to have originated in Russia in 2015 and has been linked to the suicides of over 100 children, although this figure is heavily disputed.

The challenge is named because of the manner in which some whales beach themselves on land before dying.

One of the tasks encourages youngsters to carve an image of a whale onto their arms.

Media coverage of the challenge reached its height in Russia during 2016 when it became part of the national conversation after being linked to the suicide of around 130 teenagers. It also spread to Ukraine, India and the United States, but academics and journalists have cast doubt on the true impact of the challenge.

In 2017 Londonderry all-boys grammar school St Columb’s College warned parents about the dangers of the game.

While reports of the challenge appeared to have receded in recent years, the PSNI revealed they were contacted by a concerned parent in the early hours of yesterday.

Revealing the concern, a PSNI spokesperson said on Twitter: “If you don’t know what it is, it’s a disturbing challenge aimed at teenagers to get them to self-harm. Please keep an eye on your children’s social feeds.”

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph police said they were “aware of this online game”.

“While the internet is a useful facility for young people, there are a number of risks which young people can be exposed to,” a spokesperson said.

“These include: sexual exploitation, grooming, inappropriate websites, losing control of pictures and videos, online reputation, overuse/addiction, viruses, hacking and security. Cyber enabled and facilitated crimes are a growing area of concern for police.

“As social media becomes more and more a part of everyday life some individuals will seek to exploit the relatively anonymous and removed nature of interaction via social media to abuse or intimidate.

“With teenagers spending an increasing amount of time online young people are particularly at risk from cyber-crime. The ease of access to social media and other networks provided by Smartphone technology means that children are now rarely if ever ‘offline’.

Belfast Telegraph