A 14-year-old schoolboy has committed suicide by hanging himself with his mother's shawl.
The immediate cause of this unfortunate death is believed to be an online video game (name withheld to prevent children from trying it out) the unfortunate child had been playing.
The game, developed by a Russian, consists of a 50-day course, which ends with the player being pressured to take his or her own life.
When the school authorities concerned were contacted for comment on the incident, they refused to provide any information, claiming that the boy had died during a school vacation.
Hospital authorities confirmed that it was a case of suicide.
We don't intend to sensationalise the death of that unfortunate child or cause further pain of mind to his grief-stricken family members.
We join them in mourning his death.
The purpose of this article is to persuade parents, teachers et al to do everything in their power to protect children.
The macabre Challenge
The game starts with psychedelic videos full of satanic symbols which give creeps even to adults.
Once enrolled to take part in the game, the participants are referred to a curator, who takes them through various acts of self harm (known as "challenges") over the next 50 days, till the final goal, 'victory through suicide', is achieved.
At different stages through the process and just prior to committing suicide the participants should post pictures on the internet for verification and sharing with other participants.
These pictures will assign "heroic status" to them.
American raw food nutritionist cum social activist David Wolfe, who studied this growing menace through his sheer concern on the danger it poses to the children posted on his website a conversation arising from an interaction a group of investigators posing as a "15-year-old girl" had with the so-called "curator".
Investigators in this case decided to create their own fake profile, impersonating a 15-year-old girl, to see what would happen if they played the game.
Here, we reproduce the mock interaction between the investigators (posing as the girl) and the "curator".
GIRL: "I want to play the game"
CURATOR: "Are you sure? There is no way back"
GIRL: "Yes. What does that mean - no way back?"
CURATOR: "You can't leave the game once you begin"
GIRL: "I'm ready."
Then the curator explained the rules.
CURATOR: "You carry out each task diligently, and no one must know about it. When you finish a task, you send me a photo. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?"
GIRL: "And if I want to get out?"
CURATOR: "I have all your information. They will come after you."
According to investigators, the first task assigned by the curator was to carve "F58" into her arm.
By using photoshop, investigators created a fake picture of an arm with the letters/numbers scratch in.
Once the photo was sent, however, the curator ceased to respond.
Numerous other curators were contacted by investigators, including one curator who wrote: " I will help you take the game all the way to the end. The last day is the end of the game. If you die, you win. If you don't, we will help you. Are you ready?"
It was Russia's English news channel RT that first revealed the widespread connection of teenage suicides to the horrifying video game in May 2016.
It has reported that some of the pictures had been very popular getting as much as 300,000 "likes".
All this happened while the parents didn't know anything about what was going on under their noses.
Already in Russia alone some 130 teenagers have committed suicide playing this video game.
The originators have operated through the Russian social network VK (Vkontakte), which they used to upload their sinister contents.
Another Russian daily RBTH reported that by May 2016 there had been eight virtual groups on the VK social network that promoted suicidal behaviour among the youngsters.
The Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which once were part of the Soviet Union and are Russian speaking, too have been hit by the online menace badly.
By last year Kazakhstan has reported 16 teen deaths, all believed to be the victims of this game.
February this year Kyrgyzstan reported its first death due to the game; the victim was a boy, who had just turned 15.
By now, both these countries have blocked the potentially death groups infested social media sites.
In November 2016, the Russian police made a major headway when they arrested a 21 year old Moscovian Filipp Budeikin (aka Filipp the Fox in the internet), the mastermind behind this evil project.
The perpetrator admitted his involvement in the killer project.
However, justifying his actions he had later said "the teens died happily. I gave them that which they did not have in their real life: warmth, understanding, connection".
Despite Budeikin's arrest still the menace is spreading across the world.
In the wake of this growing threat many countries around the world are adopting measures to nip the problem in the bud, before it grows into terrifying proportions.
Roshan Chandragupta, Principal Information Security Engineer, Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), has a special message for the parents, school authorities and children on the proper use of internet.
"Parents should be vigilant about what their children are doing, especially on the Internet. Schools must teach students how to use the Internet without getting into trouble. The children should be specifically told that they should not be talking to any "strangers" on the Internet just like in real life. Internet is limitless and anybody from anywhere can get connected to you. They can send you messages. This is very dangerous. How can you trust these people and their messages? The parents should be aware of these situations and tell their children to inform them of such instances if they come across while in the internet"
Chandragupta also says: "From all the things available on the Internet children should know what to choose. They should shun whatever things are bad. For children the Internet is not everything. They should do their schoolwork, interact with friends and others and involve in sports".
He warns parents, "If your children spend too much time with computers and the Internet then you should stop them from doing so. For, if they get addicted to it, it will be very difficult to get them out of it. You should not allow children to surf the net throughout the night. During free time children may use the Internet, but they should also carry on with their other daily activities of life".
Ms Gowri Moragoda, Chief Legal Officer, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), asked about the possibility of blocking the potentially harmful sites for children said, "If this is of national importance and if the request comes from the relevant authority then we will block those sites".
It is high time policymakers took up the issue of macabre video games and adopted remedial measures before more innocent lives are lost.
We apologise to our readers for not publishing the second part of "Dealing with Difficult People" this week due to space constraint.
It will be published next week.
Please bear with us.
We are compelled to carry the lead article on Suicidal Video Games this week because of its timeliness.
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-2214444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-2837019
- Sage Counselling Centre: 1800-5555555
- Care Corner Mandarin Counselling: 1800-3535800