Published: 14th September 2017
Expert view: The evolution of the smartphone from a helpful device to a deathtrap rife with addiction and blue whales
Although invented to make life easier and convenient, the increasing use of smartphones and the internet by school-going children and teenagers is slowly exposing them to harmful addictions
The Blue Whale Challenge has spread like a plague in the country. So much so that collective measures are now being taken to help curb the destruction that the game aims to spread, child by child. In a unique initiative, Fortis Healthcare recently launched a 24x7 helpline to provide psychological support to teenagers trapped in the macabre online game. The helpline -- 8376804102 -- is available for anyone who is directly undergoing undue mental stress and anxiety as a participant in the challenge.
Reports suggest that an increasing number of teenagers are being trapped into playing the deadly Blue Whale Challenge. A Google Trends report of the past 12 months shows a sharp spike in the number of searches related to the game in India.
The recent death of 17-year-old Satvik Pandey, who jumped infront of a moving train in Damoh, Madhya Pradesh, has been linked to the dreaded game. The incident was recorded by a CCTV camera installed near the railway tracks. According to his friends he was "quite absorbed in the Blue Whale game for the past few days
Mrinmay Das, Psychiatrist
This deadly game operates on one-on-one interaction between the curator and the player with the use of certain 'code' hashtags to find each other. "Also, the use of smartphones distracts children not only from studies but also from extra-curricular activities such as sports, cultural activities," Kukreja said.
"It eats into the normal social interaction that young children should have and limits their social and emotional development," she added.
The other cons of mobile phones may also lead to problems such as lower academic performance, fear of missing out, weak eyesight, disturbed sleep cycle, headaches and fatigue. Taking note of the ill effects of smartphone use, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in August issued an 18-point guideline for the safe and effective use of the internet and digital technologies in schools and school buses.
Schools need to promote a safe and secure educational environment for effective teaching and learning and discourage students from actions detrimental to themselves, their peers and the value system, the CBSE stated.
"Not only the Blue Whale Challenge but numerous other internet and mobile phone games develop a sense of fierce competition, frustration and addiction among school children," psychologist Bhavna Barmi of Fortis ESCORTS Heart Institute in New Delhi pointed out.
Catch em all: Pokemon Go was another game that had caused concern globally as the number of users addicted to the dangerous game rose
Barmi even advocated banning mobile phones for schoolgoing children. Such a measure, according to her, would help them better concentrate on academics, develop self-control and intrinsic will power.
"It will foster better interpersonal development among students and will act as a preventive measure against full-blown Internet or smartphone addiction," Barmi added.
It is important for parents to place themselves in their children's shoes to understand their perspective better, and after forming the appropriate rapport, engage in effective guidance and vigilance about the usage of mobile phones.
Those parents who feel that they may need mobile phones to contact their children during emergencies, should keep in mind that the school authorities generally provide the contact services in case of any emergency or absence from the school.
"Supporting them by talking to them, spending more time with them, making them understand the pros and cons can help kids develop a better understanding about smartphone usage," psychiatrist Manish Jain of BLK Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi said.