Bhopal: In the wake of a class 7 student of an elite school at Indore trying to jump to his death for fulfilling the ‘task’ assigned by to him by the administrator of the lethal Blue Whale game, the district education officer of Bhopal has issued directive to schools to counsel the students regarding the implications of such games.

However, it is clear that schools have limited role to play in denying access to addictive and self-annihilating ‘games’ to children. The onus lies on the parents and going by the response of the parents and school-going children Free Press talked to, it doesn’t seem they are very serious on this issue.

Arvind Saxena who works in private firm says, “My 17-year-old daughter spends hours with her phone but I have no way of knowing what she does – whether she chats, whether she watches videos, whether she plays online games or whatever. And the simple reason is that I have no access to her phone. She keeps her phone, which has a finger print scanner, locked. And if I ever try to peep from behind her shoulders to see what she is doing, she immediately moves the phone away. Today’s kids are fiercely protective of, what they believe to be their privacy. So, I can only hope that she is not hooked to any game like Blue Whale or is not watching any objectionable content.”

“I use my phone for around 12 hours every day. It is the first thing I check when I get up and the last thing I check, before I go to sleep. I mostly see YouTube. I follow movie stars on social networking sites and also whatever is trending – all videos that have gone viral. I do not play online games. I don’t think any parental supervision is needed. I have only heard about Blue Whale game. I know it is dangerous and I have warned my little sister to keep away from it,” says Anukriti, 18, a CA aspirant.

Sharad Verma, a businessman, says “I don’t keep my phone locked and everybody at my home, including my 12-year-old daughter, has unlimited access to it. Now that data is free (thanks to Ambani), I don’t much bother about how much she is using it. If I happen to see something by chance, it is okay otherwise I don’t keep a track of what is she doing with the phone. If I will start tracking, she will start deleting the surfing history!”

“Earlier, I only knew that spending a lot of time with phones playing games or doing any other thing can affect the eyes of the children and make them introvert, impact their cognitive abilities, besides of course, being a waste of time. After reading about Blue Whale, for the first time, I am realising that online games can be so dangerous as to take the life of children. May be, from now on I will keep a track on which games she is playing,” he adds.

“I don’t have my own phone. I use the phones of my parents. I use the phones for 3-4 hours every day. My mom has told me that if I use the phone for longer hours, then I will have to wear thick specs. I mainly watch YouTube channels on phone. Till last year, I used to play games like Subway Surfers, Candy Crush and Temple Run. When I was still younger, I used to play Barbie games,” said 12-year-old Subhrika who studies in class 7.

She further says “I download games from Google Play Store but I hardly inform my parents about which games I am downloading. I had downloaded Pokemon Go but could not play it as I could not sign in. Had I been able to sign in, I would have played it. I have heard about ‘Blue Whale’. I have read in a newspaper that one has to commit suicide at the end. I will not play that game “kyonki mein bewaqoof nahin hoon aur waise bhi woh ban ho gaya hai”.

What happened at Indore was just an example online addiction. The virtual addiction mainly occurs among those people including children who are not happy with their life and suffering from anxiety or depression. Parents or family members normally can’t recognise such symptoms. Addiction may be of any kind but fact is that it is mental disease. So we should take treatment in time.

– Ruma Bhattacharya, psychiatrist

It is happening due to lack of physical interaction. And due to this, the children enter the virtual world. I think, physical as well as human involvement must to deal with such problems. Parents should take care of it.

– Rajesh Kumar Sharma, principal, Bal Bhawan School

Nowadays, children, as well as adult, are spending most of their time on android phones. The visuals affect our mind easily especially children and they start living in the fantasy world. I think parents should not allow such games in their smart phones. Children should have access to learning-based games or stories.

– Gaurav Shrivastava, counsellor

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