There is a fine line between apps that are effective and apps that are injurious. Although many can be engaging and entertaining, the imminent consequences of using an app are often unforeseen and identifiable until much later.
The recent smartphone explosion has paved the way for a deluge of apps and games that keep people of all ages hooked to their phones. While this is inevitable in this social and digital age, it is time parents woke up to the fact that there are a number of the apps and games that their children use which could have inexplicable negative effects.
From development problems to fatal results, several social media sites, games and apps have woven such a hypnotic web that it is becoming increasingly difficult to free kids and teenagers from the addiction. The Blue Whale game – and to a lesser extent – Pokemon Go are a striking examples of the extremes such games and apps can go to.
The Blue Whale game is an online game originally from Russia. The game’s name comes from the horrid illustration wherein whales beach themselves intentionally and die. It comprises of a number of dangerous tasks that a player has to complete over a span of 50 days. The challenges get sinister as the days progress and the final day ends with the player committing suicide.
The game was launched in the year 2013, by Philipp Budeikin, a 21-year-old former psychology student. Thankfully, the game is not available for download on common app stores or websites; instead, players are invited to play through invites and shared on Vkontakte, a Russian social network, or other exclusive platforms.
Rise of the App
The game initially attracted tweens and teens with its subliminal videos. Whence the players got engaged, they game developers continued to influence their players through manipulation, psychological blackmail and even cyberbullying.
As players showed their loyalty, they were given more challenging tasks to test their strengths. These included balancing on roof top, standing on the edge of a bridge, inflicting injurious bodily cuts once a day, watching horror movies, killing an animal etc. The final assigned task is to ‘jump off a high building and take your life.’
There have been several cases reported worldwide in countries like Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Chile, India, Colombia, Georgia and more. From grave injuries to suicidal deaths, the ill effects inevitably harm the players who accept the challenging tasks issued by the game administrators. Till date, the Blue Whale game has claimed the lives of 130 teenagers, and creating an increasingly big furor worldwide.
What Psychologists say?
According to researchers, young girls are most susceptible to the game. This is because girls feel that the lack of their parents’ attention and affection the most, and are most desperate for a companion to please. Anton Breido, a Russian investigative official involved in the case states that Budeikin had expected this, and in fact, the latter had intentionally made efforts to manipulate the girls to be submissive.
Developer’s response to adverse effects and reviews
The game’s developer, Philipp Budeikin, has been apprehended and has confessed to inciting the suicide of about 16 schoolgirls. He claims the victims were a ‘biological waste’ and were happy to take their lives and said that he was actually cleansing the society.
What remedy have officials taken?
Companies like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo have tried their best to ban, hide, or avoid the promotion of any links directing to Blue Whale.
However, the app – and similar ones – are still available on the app stores under different names. Some pseudonyms include A Silent House, A Sea of Whales and Wake Me Up at 4:20 AM.
PokemonGo is an app developed by Niantic for Android and iOS devices is a location-based reality game. The purpose of the game is to use GPS feature to find, capture, fight and train the virtual creatures called Pokemons. Although the game is free to download, purchases can be made within the app to get additional items or features that could help increase the likelihood of victory.
Launch date and popularity
When the game was launched in July, 2016, it had more active users than even Twitter. What’s more is that it was making over $1.6 billion a day in a few months of its release. Nintendo shares have gone up by 25 percent since the game’s launch.
While it is a common sight to see people walking into walls or other objects as they stare at their smartphones, Pokemon Go has caused a new type of phone hazard. According to a JAMA Internal Medicine study, there were more than 100,000 of such incidents reported over a span of just 10 days as a result of users playing Pokemon Go. News reports also indicated that 321 accidents were connected to this game and of them 14 were car crashes.
More importantly, by using the app, users give away details of their exact location in real time. This could lead to several dangerous consequences, that start with being victims of stalking.
According to Barna Donovan, a St. Peter’s University pop culture and media trends student, gamers are landing themselves in risky situations because of Pokemon Go. It is easy to walk into walls, fall off curbs or even get run over by a passing truck while the game is played just as what happens when you are texting or talking on your phone. Experts suggest that players are lured by the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) factor, which also links to peer pressure. Such fears, unfortunately, can cause people to follow unpractical actions that have severe consequences.
How to use games and apps to bring about positive changes
In the wake of dangerous games such as Pokemon Go and Blue Whale, many parents have been left wondering how to curb the menace. Fortunately, not all apps and games are harmful.
For starters, parents are encouraged to divert their child’s attention to productive apps like 30/30, Wunderlist, and StarCraft. This could also help children understand the importance of having a balanced lifestyle, and gain a better perspective of their role in life. Those who have played these apps have reported an increased motivation, willingness to socialize, and an enhanced outlook on life.
It is quite common for a teenager to experience the feelings of lack: lack of affection, lack of attention, or lack of fulfillment from others. To fill their void, many of them resort to external stimulants, whichever are most accessible at the least cost. Parents are thus encouraged to stay aware, supportive, and encouraging.
Bharat Bhushan is a freelance writer with a passion for creating unique and interesting anecdotes on real life places and personalities. His portfolio repertoire includes writing web articles on a diverse range of topics including fitness, social media, photography, finance, current news, and more. He loves traveling to unexplored places that have not yet made it on the travel map.