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PONDER: Tackling the scourge of online games

Tackling the scourge of online games

Not all online games are harmful but a few have had disastrous effect on people, especially the young.
Momo Challenge and Blue Whale Game have taken a toll on people.

 

-Dr Sapna Bangar, Head – Client Care (Psychiatrist), Mpower shares what parents can do to quell the scourge of online games and save the younger generation from hurting themselves

  1. How does the child psychology work in this modern period of technological advancements?

Mental health concerns are rising in children at an alarming rate. Children today are connected digitally like never before but at the same time, they are losing out on actual interpersonal bonding due to busy lifestyles. So it becomes very important for parents and teachers to understand children in terms of what they are going through, the stress or bullying that they might be facing, how they are coping so that we can offer them support and prevent any crisis.

Social media is an inescapable part of today’s generation. Like every other thing, it has its merits and perils. Staying connected, sharing ideas or collaborating about projects are all the benefits of social media. However, there is no escape from cyber bullying, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), constant comparison and unrealistic expectations that become the demerits of a constantly connected world that we live in.

  1. How to protect children from online games such as Momo Challenge, Blue Whale Game?

Internet games such as the above work on vulnerable children and young people with low self-esteem and loneliness who unfortunately are made to feel powerful and special initially but lead them to become more and more isolated. Ultimately the children feel trapped without a way out which leads them to suicide or undertaking dangerous tasks with potentially fatal outcomes.

In this technological era, parents need to be open with their children and explain to them the need for monitoring their internet usage. They should explain the risks involved in unmonitored internet usage. So setting age-appropriate parental controls, every once in a while seeing what their children are browsing or posting online should be part of an agreement between parents and children especially when they are young.

  1. What are the immediate behavioural symptoms that parents and educators should watch out to identify affected children?

There is a change in the child’s behaviour – spending long hours in their bedroom, social isolation, change in sleeping patterns, anger outbursts, loss of interest in previous enjoyable activities, not submitting homework on time, missing school, seeming distracted or preoccupied are some of the signs to look out for.

They should approach the child and try to speak to him/her in a non-judgemental manner. The child needs your support at this time so rather than being harsh or shout at the child, you should be supportive and calm. Above all, seek professional help at the earliest.

  1. Online games like #kikichallenge are being promoted while Momo Challenge and Blue Whale Game are criticized. How do they work on young minds?

The Kiki Challenge is a classic example of how things started in a fun way can become dangerous. However, the Momo Challenge and the Blue Whale Game were started with an intention of cyber-criminals preying on young vulnerable children by hooking them to the games with a life-threatening endpoint. Both the games work on the psychology of cognitive distortion, loss of touch with reality, social isolation and fear.

  1. Some state police departments have issued advisory as a remedy. What are the ideal measures that government must take to address these alarming issues?

The main role to be played by the government should be raising awareness about such challenges and making professional support available and accessible. Policing is not an answer to these challenges because the children need support and understanding as well as right interventions and education of care-givers such as parents and teachers to recognize the early signs of mental health issues.

 

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