To win the war you’ve got to know the enemy, his ultimate goal, strategies, strengths and weaknesses, etc.

That’s why it’s important for us to know about some clear-and-present dangers currently affecting our children and teenagers. No, I’m not talking about premarital sex, drinking, drugs, etc. I’m talking about a “culture of death” that seems to be attracting a larger audience among these age groups.

One of these is known as “The Blue Whale,” “A Silent House,” “A Sea of Blue Whales” and/or “Wake Me Up at 4:20 A.M.” The other one is “13 Reasons Why,” a Netflix show, that began airing in March, 2017 and is based upon a 2007 novel with the same name by Jay Asher.

I’d not heard about these until recently, but quickly realized the need to warn parents and their preteens/teens about these potentially deadly games or shows.

The on-line “Blue Whale” game began in Russia and quickly began to spread to other nations via the internet. It’s based on a relationship between the challengers—also called players or participants—and the “administrators” over a 50-day period.

Once enrolled, the players are given a series of daily duties to do, some of which involve self-mutilation like carving the outline of a blue whale into one’s arm. They’re also encouraged to watch horror movies and to wake up at odd hours of the night. Each one of these must be documented and submitted to the administrators. And, from the outset, the participants are warned there’s no way out since the administrators have all of their personal information and will come looking for them.

Sadly, the last day’s duty is to kill one’s self and it would seem to-date that some 150+ students have done so.

Likewise, the current Netflix series—“13 Reasons Why”—has become quite popular with teens and pre-teens. In the fictional book and series, a teenager named Hannah Baker dies by suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes that reveal 13 reasons why she ended her life. Some of these include “slut shaming,” social isolation, bullying, loneliness, sexual assault, etc.—and in the tapes Hannah lets those “responsible” know how they’ve failed her.

While it’s hard to understand why Netflix would even air this series—much less renew it for a second season—it behooves parents to know what their kids are watching and doing behind closed doors. Even more, in reality both of these (“The Blue Whale” and “13 Reasons Why”) have opened the door for families and communities to discuss with their children what it’s like to live life in the 21st century.

Believe it or not, teens are talking to each other about these subjects in record numbers. Mental health centers report record numbers of calls worldwide from preteens/teenagers after watching the “13 Reasons Why” series.

However, sadly, there are also an increasing number of teens who aren’t calling. Suicide continues to be the 2nd leading cause of death in adolescents 15-to-24-years-old and is the 3rd leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14. Research has also shown a significant increase in major depression among preschool-aged children (4%), school-aged children (5%) and adolescents (11%).

Dear Reader, glamorizing or romanticizing suicide the way “13 Reasons Why” does is wrong. In fact, somehow thinking watching the series will lessen bullying or change one’s character is seriously misguided. Likewise, the way Hannah carefully crafts her tapes and structures her death is also not realistic; most depressed individuals begin losing their reasoning ability and have poor impulse control. They basically see suicide as the only way to stop their mental and emotional suffering—which is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

That’s why it’s important that you talk with that person you feel is at risk. Ask him/her point blank “Have you been thinking about hurting yourself? Have you been thinking of suicide?” Studies have shown that this direct approach is the best one and can often open the door to that person getting help.

Let’s do what we can to help those who are losing hope. Talk to your pastor, physician, mental health expert or trusted friend. Here are also some numbers you can call: National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK), Suicide & Depression Hotline (800-999-9999), Suicide Prevention Services Depression Hotline (630-842-9696). God bless you.

NOTE: If you’d like to contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” you can write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at