The recent suicide of a teenager in Kyrgyzstan has ignited a moral panic about the dangers of the Internet, and has prompted lawmakers to consider restricting the online activity of youngsters.
Within hours of news emerging that a young boy in the capital, Bishkek, had taken his life on February 1, media outlets began speculating about the pernicious effects of the Internet, and how interactive online games may have played a role in the tragedy.
Since then, police officers have been subjecting children to unauthorized physical inspections to ensure they are not self-harming. Officers are also checking children’s smartphones for potentially incriminating evidence.
The current wave of panic about online games actually preceded the Bishkek suicide by a couple of days. Within a two-day period, on January 30-31, multiple local outlets published detailed reports of the emergence of virtual games propagated by the use of Russian language hashtags, translatable as “#SeaOfWhales,” “#BlueWhales,” “#WhalesSwimUpwards” and “#WakeMeUpAt420.”
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