Clampdown over 'black out game'

By Mike Dinsdale of The Northern Advocate -
File photo / thinkstock
File photo / thinkstock

The Education Ministry is warning primary schools to be wary of a dangerous "blackout game" being played by youngsters.

The warning comes after an Auckland boy was left unconscious and bleeding after playing the game.

A letter to primary school principals in Northland highlighted the role social media could have in spreading potentially dangerous information among youth, and included contact numbers for schools with concerns about the game or other traumatic events among their pupils, such as recent concerns over a rise in suspected suicides among Northland youth.

The letter said while games such as the one prompting the latest warning had surfaced over the years, there were risks associated with them.

"We recommend that you and your staff remain alert to the potential for students' involvement in the 'blackout game', be mindful about young people's internet and technology use, and are prepared to support them to communicate about things they may be hearing, writing or receiving," said the letter, signed by the ministry's district manager Tim Anderson.

"It is possible that communicating about the 'games' could unintentionally promote interest and involvement. The key issue is to look out for the signs of risk and be able to recognise and respond to young people who may need help."

Te Tai Tokerau Primary Principals chairman and Onerahi school head Gerald Koberstein welcomed the ministry taking a proactive inter-agency approach to issues affecting youth in the region.

"The times have changed. A lot of children's social interaction used to be at school, but because of social networking it's moved beyond school.

"Having an inter-agency group that's there to support schools, communities and families when these traumatic things happen is a really proactive thing to do. That sort of support is great."

While schools had clear internet and social media policies it was up to parents to keep an eye on what their youngsters were doing at home and it was important to check on what young people were doing via social networking.

"We recommend that you and your staff remain alert to the potential for students' involvement in the 'blackout game', be mindful about young people's internet and technology use and are prepared to support them to communicate about things they may be hearing, writing or receiving," the letter said.

Any schools with concerns about this issue or needing further support can ring the Ministry's Traumatic Incident helpline on 0800 848 326 or Child Youth and Family on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459).

The ministry concerns come as the region tackles a dramatic increase in youth suicides. Of the 32 suspected cases this year, 12 were in the 10 to 19 age group. The region averaged about three suspected suicides in that age group annually.

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