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Recent teen suicides may be linked to online challenge

(KATU Photo)

A Texas family said their 15-year-old son hanged himself this week as a result of playing the "Blue Whale Challenge." The online challenge is accessed through social media sites and it's prompting school officials and behavioral therapists to issue a warning to parents about this deadly game.

"It was a matter of time before somebody got the idea of let's do something that ends in suicide," said Dr. Robin Henderson, the chief executive of Behavioral Health Providence.

Henderson said this type of predatory behavior isn't new, it's just a new medium. She said parents should practice safety, education and conversation to prevent teens from falling victim.

"These things have always existed, they're now just really, really accessible. What I think is more important is that this presents us an opportunity for a conversation," said Henderson.

"I think the problem runs deeper than pointing a finger at the internet, I think it's more of a societal problem," said Lisa Semling, who's raising a 13-year-old son. She said she talks with her son about what he sees online. She also said she is trying to give him tools to help deal with dangers rather than playing cop.

"If he has a strong sense of himself and his decisions and that's instilled in him, rather than feeling like I need to protect him from the world, then he will be able to take care of himself better," said Semling.

Henderson said the worst thing a parent can do is completely shut down access to social media, because teens will always find a way around it. She said the best thing you can do is take this opportunity to talk with your teens.

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