Bengaluru: Recently, two teenagers were rescued from the clutches of the deadly online game, Blue Whale Challenge, in the city.
Not just this, recently, the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, which launched a 24x7 helpline, receives some 100 calls for help and advice by children and their parents, schools and counsellors from across the country.
“We have also received a call from a girl who started playing the game and crossed one level but wanted to get out of it. Most of the time, it is the inquisitiveness that comes with the news which intrigues children to experiment it a little more and then get hooked to it,” says Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare who is heading the helpline service as well.
But are adolescents from the IT City more vulnerable to such web games than their peers from other cities? “I don't think it is about Bengaluru or any other specific city. All one needs is a smartphone for online access, and geography doesn't matter. What we need is finding a long-term solution,” he stresses.
The SHUT (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) clinic at Nimhans is yet to witness any such case. “We see cases of internet abuse and cases of self-harm, but nothing to such an extent. It has nothing to do with the city, every child is vulnerable, anyone who is addicted to self-harm behaviour,” says Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, additional professor of Clinical Psychology and coordinator of SHUT Clinic. He feels that the way Blue Whale administrator identifies its victims is what one should look into.
Akshita Hariharan, a consultant clinical neuropsychologist, also stresses the need to pick up certain red flags and says that the threat is not limited to city's demographic profile. “City does not play a large role. It is basically access to the media. Parents should get more involved with their children. They should get alerted when they notice the child's behaviour, the subtle mood changes, withdrawn behaviour or not wanting to socialise with the similar age group.
“If the child is secretive or has a tendency to self-harm, then parents of such children should definitely be extra-cautious and seek help,” sums up Dr Akshita.