Deadly on-line games: Who’s at fault?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Dec 2018 10:08:49


The Hitavada Team,

Technology is a boon as well as a bane. It depends on how users make use of it. Thanks to advent of technology, the whole world is a click away. Youngsters are apt at handling the gadgets and roaming freely in the virtual world through their mobile phone handsets. Unfortunately, because of their age, most of the youngsters do not understand where to draw the line between good content and bad or harmful content.

The recent incidents of a girl committing suicide allegedly after playing an online game, and a boy committing suicide just because his mobile phone handset was snatched away by his mother, have alarmed the society in general and the parents in particular. ‘The Hitavada’ has been campaigning consistently about the hazards unleashed by the mobile phone. The games that were available in Internet cafe till now, have now occupied space on mobile. With various mobile service providers in cut-throat competition with each other providing more than 1GB data per day to subscribers, most of the teenagers are getting hooked up to the virtual world, surfing through all sorts of content.

Various video games, on-line games can be downloaded easily by any user on his/her mobile phone handset. Many youths or even adults play these games to overcome loneliness too. Some play out of curiosity. In fact, in many cases, people have become loners, lost all the time in playing these games. Gradually, the habit has deteriorated into addiction. Among the teenagers, it has taken a dangerous form. In recent years, the country as well as Nagpur have seen some deaths after the new dangerous on-line games banned in many countries were introduced.

Against this backdrop, ‘The Hitavada’ talked to Nagpurians from diverse background and sought to know ‘Who is at fault?’ for this situation. The idea was simple: to sensitise the society. Here are the excerpts: 

Trupti Parkar, a student of Textile Designing, NIFT makes moderate use of mobile phone. So, for her, playing game on mobile phone is out of question. “I think people play on-line games for thrill, which they do not find in real life,” she felt. She and her friends never discuss on-line game. The only time they had discussed it was when ‘Blue Whale’ game had become a big issue. “When ‘Blue Whale’ game was found to be dangerous, I stayed away from it. Why should I play and get trapped into it?” she asked. A very cautious person, she never got into on-line games. To satisfy her curiosity, she reads relevant articles. “I want to face challenges of real life, and not on virtual platforms,” she stressed.



Dr Jaya Shiwalkar, noted Paediatrician and Psychiatrist, advised parents to closely observe behaviour of their children and be watchful about their habits. Particularly during adolescence, when younger ones need emotional support, such habits (of playing online games) are likely to take roots faster. Engaging them in other constructive activities help in encouraging them to give up the habit of playing games on mobile phones. “Proper communication with the child is absolutely necessary to prevent addiction of mobile phones and diverting their attention from playing such dangerous games. The games like ‘Blue Whale’ have indicated dangerous fallouts. Most of those who fell victim were in adolescence,” she observed.


According to Dr Nikhil Pande, Consulting Psychiatrist, youngsters use such games ‘in search of recognition’. For, their achievements are appreciated on screen. With any achievement, brain secrets Dopamine. A child should be helped in secretion of Dopamine through other activities. “Communication between parent and child by understanding behaviour of the child is necessary. Loneliness, introversion, declining academic performance, addiction to cigarette or alcohol, increasing demand of pocket money are subtle indications,” he cautioned. Children usually play such dangerous games in parlours or on mobile phones, outside the house. The games must have been designed by some psychopath, he said without mincing words. He added, “Providing healthy alternative is the only way to eliminate such addiction. Let the child get recognition in any field, instead of pressuring him or her for academic achievement.”

“In growing age, emotional needs are higher. With tremendous enthusiasm and energy, attraction towards adventure, experimenting with several things secretly are on the rise. This is reflected in their behaviour, which the parents should observe carefully and understand,” said Dr Aruna Gajbhiye, a Social Work Teacher. Feeling ignored is a major factor, which attracts the youngsters towards video games. Gradually, the addiction grows and they move on to dangerous games. Non-judgmental attitude of parents can help a child in expressing himself. Bringing up children properly is responsibility of the entire society. Deviant behaviour of the child noticed by anyone should be arrested by the elders and information may be given to the parents. She advised the parents to be watchful as the decision to commit suicide is not instinctive. “It grows slowly, which should be noticed by parents,” she said.

Taking the point further, Dr Deepashree Raghatate, Dentist and Social Worker, called for collective efforts by parents and elite members of the society to deal with the situation. With the peer group using smartphone, a child may look at parent negatively. The family members should restrict their own screen-time and find other ways to prevent unnecessary use of electronic gadgets, she recommended. Explaining the proper use and ill-effects of using these gadgets should be conveyed to the child properly. “Engaging in physical activities, restricting Internet usage, and observing the child’s activities carefully can help in avoiding disastrous results,” she added. She advocated parents using the Internet, if necessary, when the child is not around. At the same time, she felt that the authorities concerned should not allow destructive mobile phone applications even to come on the board.

Ojas Wanjari, a budding lawyer, was critical of youngsters addicted to games. “Today’s youth is so engrossed in playing games (on-line and off-line) that they are forgetting the great lessons taught to us by famous philosophers and thinkers. Instead of reading books and grasping the knowledge in them, they are busy earning fictional points that grant them interim pleasure. Such individuals are missing out on great things this world has to offer, which is more worthy of attention than the chicken dinner” he observed. He suggested that parents should give their children what they wanted but on a condition that they put in the efforts to widen the horizons of their understanding.

Girish Margam, a Website Designer and Developer, offered a technology perspective. On-line gaming has its pros and cons. One should watch out for spamster and scamster games, he said. Outdoor games can squeeze one’s time. Playing on-line games can help one build co-ordination and improve concentration, but it should not cost one’s precious time. On-line games are quicker way to spend time when one is free. But, one should not get so engrossed that one does other work only when one is free from playing on-line games. On-line games can kill one’s stress and one can have a good time. But, it should not kill one’s relationships. One should not get so addicted to these games that they start affecting one’s health, he cautioned.

Poonam Kesharwani, a Graphic Designer and Animator, pointed out that some on-line games had violent and sexual contents. However, she stressed, it is one’s responsibility to react to such content. She added, “We have to draw a line between virtual life and personal life. We must avoid sharing personal information with strangers whom we meet on-line. A simple solution to all problems of virtual world is -- do not click randomly, be aware.”

Adv Vaishnavi Khamborkar, another budding lawyer, shared her awareness on the issue. “In the world of video games, people do things that one can not imagine to do in real world. With the invention of smartphones, the business of video games has grown and the bar has been raised to an altogether sinister level. A new form of addiction has evolved causing a lot of problems in almost every part of the world and affecting specially the younger generation,” she observed. Children are most vulnerable to this phenomenon. According to her, playing online games for long hours can affect eyesight. The cases of insomnia also are on the rise because of such addiction. She rued, “Such games are causing stress, anxiety and aggressive behaviour in players. Also, they restrict one’s physical growth in the age when one should be playing outdoor games, interacting and meeting new people. Children have imprisoned themselves inside the world of video games thereby seriously affecting one’s growth.”

“Lack of communication between the family members is the root cause of this problem. Parents have no time to spend with their children and when the children feel isolated, they start finding entertainment in video games, on smartphones or websites,” said Dr Rita Wadetwar, Associate Professor of Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University and a mother of two youngsters. Smart people of smart businesses are taking advantage of such children isolated and neglected by their parents. Therefore, she emphasised, parents should spend some time in a day with their children. They should not allow their children getting isolated or neglected. Family values, love and affection between family members and creating a bond of relationship is the solution to save children from this addiction, she felt.

According to Leena Dhoble, a Research Scholar in Pharmaceutical Sciences, parents are giving excessive stress on career of their children. They want their children to be inside the houses and study, do homework. For entertainment, parents have given their children access to virtual world through smartphones and Internet. This attitude of parents has stopped children from playing games outdoors. Children are lacking in sportsmanship spirit. They can not tolerate others or accommodate others in their life. Now, parents want their children to play indoor games and they allow them to play whatever they want to play. But, she said, parents are not monitoring what their children are playing. Her prescription to stop addiction of virtual games is to encourage outdoor games, participation
in social gatherings, reading books etc.

Nilesh Bharne, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV), said that suicides due to online games were not new. Many students have allegedly ended their life while trying to complete the ‘challenging’ tasks. “In such cases, it is the responsibility of parents to be aware of all the activities of their child,” he added. Nowadays, cell phone is a basic need for all and social networking groups, games and other applications are also important in school, college, and profession. He felt, parents can not stop their child from using cell phone but they can make him or her aware about ‘Dos and Dont’s’ of cell phone. Parents should know whether their child is getting very addicted to online games, social groups or any other practice and should counsel him or her immediately. In the case of Mansi Jonwal’s suicide, Bharne said, she was already going through depression as she did not get admission in the college of her choice. “Since she had maximum free time, she started playing online games. Her suicide is suspected due to two reasons -- addiction to the games and depression,” he remarked.

Shweta Khedkar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Economic Cell and Cyber Crime, attracted attention to the bigger problem. “Addiction to cell phone is a major threat to health nowadays. Online games are just one part of the problem,” she said. Already, she informed ‘The Hitavada’, Cyber Cell team is conducting awareness programmes in schools, colleges and various organisations about merits and demerits of mobile phone. During the programmes, Cyber Cell team discusses many unprecedented cases related to youngsters. “However, despite all the awareness programmes and counselling, it is the duty of the parents to keep a watch on their child’s activity.

They should be able to notice difference in behaviour of the child. If the child is looking depressed, parents should have a word with him or her. Usually, a child addicted to playing games easily loses his or her temper and becomes sullen. In such cases, parents should act immediately once they notice the difference in the behaviour of their child,” she said.