Texas teen Isiah Gonzalez was found hanging in his room with his phone propped up nearby filming his death. The parents are warning that their son killed himself as a part of a ghoulish online game that challenges youths to kill themselves. Even some schools are warning parents of the “Blue Whale” challenge.
Jorge Gonzalez, Isiah’s father, informs the press that his son was found hanging in his bedroom closet on Saturday. He warns families to keep an eye on their kids.
The San Antonio Police Department makes no mention of the challenge in their report. The family however said they reached that conclusion after piecing together their son’s social media and communication which showed clues that he had participated in the game.
Alexis, Isiah’s sister, told press that apparently the game master had collected information on the family and threatened to harm them if he didn’t continue the game.
Many people are skeptical that the game exists, including the authorities, as there’s been a lack of suicides that can be directly linked to the game. However, Agent Michelle Lee from the FBI’s San Antonio office encouraged parents to monitor their children’s online activity.
“It’s a reminder of one of the many dangers and vulnerabilities that children face using various social media and apps online every day,” Lee said. “Parents must remain vigilant and monitor their child’s usage of the internet.”
This isn’t the first case this week where a parent came forward and claimed that the online game was the cause of their child’s suicide. A Georgia woman came forward anonymously claiming that her 16-year-old daughter killed herself as part of the challenge.
The rumors have been floating around for months. Law enforcement, educators and parents across the country have reported these rumors. Most of these rumors had been coming from other countries, some in Brazil, Russia and at least six other countries. However, until this week, none of these allegations ever made their way to the US.
How It Works
Children apparently reach out to the game curators and are given a 50-day challenge. Each day they have to do something different and more extreme than the last, like taking pictures of themselves on the edge of buildings, or cutting symbols into their arms. Images of youths are found under the game’s hashtag with proof of their challenges.
Instagram and twitter try to monitor and keep an eye on these images, however not all are reported. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children are aware of the game and encourage parents to report it and any similar cyber activity.
Eliza Harrell, the group’s director of education and outreach said that she hadn’t received information on participants receiving threats and intimidation however it was still concerning.
“That really adds another level to this,” she said. “We do not tend to address specific apps or games when we give advice to parents.”
When parents talk to their children, “the underlying conversation needs to be about dealing with strangers online and putting themselves in a position of trust,” she added. “It’s an issue that a child is listening to someone anonymously and doing what they are told by a stranger to do.”