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‘Blue Whale should wake up parents to online threats to children’

Sed Hashim Najmi | New Delhi |

Excessive use of internet by children and their soaring engagement with the social media seem to have woken up parents, school administrations, government authorities and law-enforcement agencies among others to the need to protect and safeguard this vulnerable section of society.

Such an awareness has arisen especially in the wake of the raging controversy over the
“deadly” online game “Blue Whale Challenge” which has been linked to alleged suicides of many teenagers across India and the world in recent months.

Experts have suggested that children’s online activities need to be closely monitored by their parents who should get “proactive” in this regard.

According to some experts, parents should create an electronic safety net for their children by keeping an effective watch over their internet use. They should also have digital  awareness and acquire relevant education and training to deal with growing cyber game threats to their children, experts said.

A cyber techno-expert Neeraj Aarora, who is also the convener of the Cyber Forum,
said, “By effectively monitoring a child’s internet use and digital footprint, and having security awareness, education and training about how to deal with cyber threats, parents can create an electronic safety-net for their children.”

He also said, “Without curbing children’s entertainment quotient or digital exposure, parental controls and other means of blocking, filtering or monitoring internet can actually help a child develop a responsible online behaviour.”

The instances of children being prone to online bullying, and their exposure to inappropriate content and developing the internet addiction disorder are reported regularly.

Aarora also went on to say that “On the other end, the school and government authorities, including the local police, in order to create a firewall and electronic safety net, can start cyber counselling by the school authorities and cyber patrolling in collaboration
with the local police and parents.”

An advocate Gurmeet Singh, who has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to major internet companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo to take down the links of “Blue Whale” game, said, “Parents should keep a check on the behaviour of their children.

They should spend at least one hour with their child everyday to get to know what is going on in his/her life.”

On 13 October, the Supreme Court had reportedly asked the Centre to set up a panel of experts to block virtual dare games like “Blue Whale Challenge”.

The apex court also sought the government’s response on a plea seeking to firewall such violent or lethal online games.

The apex court has already been hearing a plea filed by a 73-year-old man from Tamil Nadu, which has sought a ban on the “Blue Whale” game. The Centre had recently swung into action to curb this internet game, which reportedly involves a series of mainly “brutal” tasks assigned to a player by administrators during a 50-day period with the final challenge requiring him to commit suicide.

In this dangerous game, a player is also asked to share photos after finishing different tasks. The game is spread via links on social media platforms.

The Centre had issued directions to several major internet firms to remove the links of this game.