Authorities are warning parents of an online game that can turn deadly.
The so-called "Blue Whale Challenge" is a series of tasks and challenges spread out over 50 days. Authorities said the tasks can start out simple, but can lead to dangerous tasks and ultimately leads to death. According to reports, on the 50th day, the "administrator" tells the participant to commit suicide.
Dr. Linda Vasquez is the Executive Director of DREAM of Hattiesburg, Inc., a non-profit, community-based substance abuse prevention agency certified by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health
"As a parent, I'm very concerned, because it adds another piece or another element I have to be looking for," said Dr. Vasquez. "Now, we have to be concerned. They are doing a challenge and it's instantaneous, the type of feedback they are going to get. It's immediate."
Dr. Vasquez said she has seen an increase in suicides across the country and in Mississippi. She said alcohol, drugs, social media and bullying can all play a role and that teens may be becoming "desensitized to the danger."
Just this week, parents in San Antonio said they found their 15-year-old son had streamed his suicide on Facebook. They found him in his closet bedroom and said the "Blue Whale Challenge" directed him to do so. There have been similar reports of suicide with teens in the last year.
"With social media, it's 'How many hits do you have?' 'How many contacts do you have," said Dr. Vasquez. "I think that puts an extra set of pressure than someone my age."
Dr. Vasquez said its critical for parents to check their children's cell phones, from text messages to social media apps, as well as online sites. Authorities said the "Blue Whale Challenge" has been spread through apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
Cindy Ayala is the mother of three boys and said she tried to monitor her sons phones as they were growing up.
"Yes, I asked all the time," said Ayala. "The internet is like being out there and just letting them out there in the world where there are lots of predators and people who are out there who can trick them and use them."
DREAM offers a variety of services for all ages.
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