Blue Whale: British children as young as seven at risk from online suicide 'game'

British children as young as seven know about an internet 'game' which encourages them to kill themselves, according to an online safety expert.

Blue Whale sees young people perform a set number of tasks, the last of which is deadly.

The 'game' began in Russia several years ago and around 130 youngsters are believed to have taken their own lives in the country since then.

It is spread on social media and there are concerns that British children as young as seven may now also be at risk.

:: Blue Whale death game leaves trail of misery

Online child protection specialist Jonathan Taylor told Sky News: "Last week I was in a primary school and a Year 3 pupil, a boy, asked me about it.

"I would not be speaking to primary school children about Blue Whale but they know about it. When I asked who else had heard about this you had 20 hands go up.

"The children are talking about Blue Whale. They may not know exactly what they are talking about but the curiosity of a child ... they may then go on to the internet to see what they can do."

Most of the fatalities of Blue Whale have been in Russia but there are also reports of incidents in Ukraine, Estonia, Kenya, Brazil and Argentina.

A case has also been reported in Ireland and, earlier this year, Devon and Cornwall police tweeted a warning for young people to be aware of the risks.

Psychotherapist Noel Bell said: "Whilst we rationally might think how could anyone fall for such ridiculous requests and end up in such a dire situation, the fact is they pick vulnerable people.

"It is through that vulnerability that people become susceptible to committing self-harm."

The NSPCC's head of young campaigners, Emily Cherry, said: "It's really important to emphasise the role of parents in having regular early conversations around the online world with their children."

She also said social media providers and the online industry should be "stepping up their game to make sure we're keeping children safe online".

Russian first-year university student Oleg Kapaev told Sky News he started playing Blue Whale when he was bored.

Before long he was given the 'task' of jumping off a 20-storey building. He said: "I didn't feel like I needed to kill myself. I felt I needed to complete the task.

"I only had this thought in my head - that I need to complete the task."

Oleg's parents found out what he was planning and managed to save him.

:: If you feel affected by the issues in this article, click here to contact the Samaritans in the UK or call 116 123.

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