British police are warning parents about the dangers of a sick social media 'game' that's said to be responsible for hundreds of teenage suicides in Russia.
The 'Blue Whale Challenge' encourages at-risk participants to take part in a series of tasks like cutting themselves every day for 50 days.
They are then instructed to kill themselves on the final day of the sick 'challenge'.
The social media 'game' is being investigated by police in Russia in relation to a rash of teenage suicide attempts.
Now police officers in Britain are posting online warnings to alert parents about the challenge.
Devon and Cornwall Police PCSO Kirsty Down posted on Twitter: 'Who ever created this horrible game is sick! Parents: Please be aware of this 'game' - talk to your children about it if concerned.'
The panic over the online challenge was prompted by the death of two teenagers in Russia last month who were believed to be participating.
Two school girls - Yulia Konstantinova, 15, and Veronika Volkova, 16 - fell to their deaths from the roof of an apartment block in industrial Ust-Ilimsk.
A girl named only as Ekaterina, 15, was critically injured after she fell onto snowy ground from a flat in the city of Krasnoyarsk, also Siberia.
Just two days beforehand a 14-year-old girl from Chita, near Mongolia, was reported to have thrown herself under a commuter train.
In all cases state investigators are probing whether a controversial web 'suicide game' has influenced the girls to seek to take their lives.
Yulia left a note saying 'End' on her social page and earlier she had posted a picture with a big blue whale, seen as a symbol of a social media movement encouraging children to take their own lives.
Her friend Veronika wrote: 'Sense is lost... End.'
She regularly posted sad messages such as, 'Do you feel that gradually you become useless?' or 'I'm just a ghost'.
It was reported that two teenage boys were detained by police at the scene after allegedly filming the tragic double suicide.
The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a probe on 'incitement to suicide' regarding the pair's death.
'Investigators checked the scene, the homes of the minors, and interviewed relatives and friends of the victims, to establish the motives,' said a statement. 'Particular attention during the investigation of the criminal case will be given to the study of their social contacts on the Internet.'
In Krasnoyarsk, law enforcement recently opened three criminal cases of incitement to suicide involving schoolgirls via the groups in social media. In all these cases, the teenagers were rescued.
One local school director told police he had received an anonymous call saying a student had joined a 'group of death' and planned soon to kill herself.
The police identified the girl who explained that had had joined a 'game' in social media network 'Vkontakte', and had been given 'tasks' by the administrator of the group.
She was told to cut certain words on her hands and search for a high-rise building from which she could jump. She did not obey the commands - but there are fears that others did.
In the Chita case, transport police confirmed that the so-called suicide game 'Blue Whale' is seen as a possible 'cause of death'.
A second girl had made plans to kill herself with the dead teenager, but changed her mind at the last moment.
Teenagers are urged to use a knife or razor to make the shape of a whale on their wrist or leg, say Russian reports.
They are also urged to watch horror movies all day, and to wake themselves at 4.20am, steps leading up to demands to take their own lives on the 50th day of being in the game.
There was deep concern last year when there were fears that the sinister masterminds could be behind at least 130 suicides across Russia.
After the arrest of a supposed ringleader, there was a reduction in cases, but now there is major new fear of vulnerable teenagers being swayed by the barbaric death social media accounts.
Investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported last year: 'We have counted 130 suicides of children that took place between November 2015 and April 2016.
'Almost all these children were members of the same internet groups and lived in good, happy families.'
It went on: 'We know absolutely for sure is that adults are working with children, with the help of knowledge of their habits and passions, using their favourite language and culture,' reported the newspaper.
'They know psychology well, they convince girls that they are 'fat', tell boys that they are 'losers' in this world. And that there is another world and they will be among the chosen.'
A report on Ren TV said that an internal report by the FSB secret service, once headed by Vladimir Putin, 'indicated that the problem of provoking suicides among underage children via Internet is really serious'.
Last year an alleged ringleader named as 21-year-old Philip Budeikin was detained, and he has been charged with organising eight groups between 2013 and 2016 which 'promote suicide'.
Some 15 teenagers committed suicide, and another five were rescued at the last moment, according to the case against him.
Children are told on such social media that 'the best things in life start with the letter 'S' - semiya (family), Saturday, sex, suicide.'
A song tells them: 'We have left for the open space, we have nothing left in this world.'
The children are asked: 'How many dull days like this are you going to drag yourself through?'
A picture of an approaching train has a sign: 'This world is not for us.'
A photograph of teens on a roof is captioned: 'We are children of the dead generation.'
However there are also some doubts about the extent to which the Blue Whale phenomenon was responsible for the rash of teenage suicides in Russia.
Another Russian publication, Meduza, argued that Novaya Gazeta were inaccurate in their reporting; that although the social media groups do exist, there is no proof that the game is what caused the suicides. Instead, it could also be argued that suicidal and potentially mentally ill young people happen to frequent similar social media groups.
This article was extracted from The Daily Mail, 10 March 2017