The father of a teenage boy whose death has been linked to the Blue Whale "suicide challenge" has warned parents of the potential danger of social media websites. A number of reports in the British press have cited the sinister game after Conor Wilmot, 13, was found dead in a field in Co Clare, Ireland on 11 May.
According to reports, police in Ireland have seized Conor's mobile phone and computer. The boy's father, Greg, has also spoke to a national newspaper about the circumstances surrounding his death, leading concerns that the Blue Whale game may have claimed its first victim in the UK.
"Parents nowadays do not realise how much their children are into the world of virtual reality where, to them, everything is reality," Mr Wilmot told the Irish Mirror, alluding to the theory that Conor's internet habits were somehow involved in his death.
"They find it hard to discern between the two and I don't see how we are going to tackle this as a major problem. Any nutcase can post terrible things on social media."
As yet there are no official police statements to confirm that the boy's death is tied to the Blue Whale game – a deadly 50-day challenge that originated on a Russian social network site and has allegedly been responsible for multiple suicides of teenagers in the region.
The game reportedly sees social media group administrators – dubbed 'Masters' – task victims with increasingly vile challenges. To "win" the game on the final day, participants are ordered to commit suicide under threat of family members being murdered should they say no.
A total of 130 deaths have been linked to Blue Whale – also known as F57 – in Russia, although this number is heavily disputed. The alleged brainchild of the game, Filipp Budeikin, pleaded guilty to to charges of inciting suicide on 11 May.
Concerns in the UK were raised after the headteacher of Woodlands School in Basildon, Essex sent a letter to its pupils' parents addressing the 'craze' in April. Fears were exacerbated after Blue Whale phrases and terminology began appearing on more common social media platforms such as Instagram.
In a statement, Conor's school has denied suggestions that acts of bullying were in any way responsible for his death.
"There has been some speculation on social media and in some media outlets regarding the circumstances of the tragedy. In particular there have been suggestions of bullying."
"This speculation is totally without foundation and represents an unwarranted intrusion into the grief of the family at this tragic time. School management and the school community as a whole are shocked."
The Samaritans provides a free support service for those who need to talk to someone in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Visit Samaritans.org or call 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI), 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Visit this website to find a support phone number in your country.