On Monday, a school psycho-social counsellor received a panic-stricken call from the mother of a teenager at Paravur.
Her 13-year-old son was so addicted to online games that he was found to have acquainted absolute strangers and even threatened parents who stopped him from playing the game. “Worse still, he was even shamelessly asking money from passersby to play the game. We have referred him for professional psychiatric intervention,” said the counsellor Mahitha Vipinachandran.
Free Fire, Call of Duty, PUBG are some of the violent online games that have a large number of students addicted leaving child welfare agencies concerned. With online education in vogue, restricting access to gadgets has also become near impossible.
“The online game addiction has hit alarming proportions prompting the women and child development department to launch a campaign “Njangalilla” (We dont want online games) with the help of school psycho-social counsellors, “ said Sini K. S, District Child Protection Officer.
All the 68 school counsellors sre being trained for running the campaign in as many schools besides covering the 23 Integrated Child Development Scheme circles.
“The first phase of awareness campaign targeting students will begin this Monday followed by a session for parents on how to save their wards from game addiction,” said Ms. Vipinachandran.
In the later stages, sessions will be designed to assess the extent of addiction through a survey followed by a module to keep children away from online games through peer influence.
The Railway Childline Ernakulam in association with Welfare Services Ernakulam is also running an online sensitisation programme, ‘Right Tracks,’ to counter game addiction. The programme has already been run in 15 schools covering over 1300 students.
“Though we have multiple topics, cyber safety has emerged as the most sought after one by schools on account of online game addiction. The demand is such that we are now planning to run the programme beyond 20 schools as we initially planned,” said Shano Jose, coordinator, Railway Childline Ernakulam. Coping with stress and emotion, creative and critical thinking, self awaresness, and substance abuse being the other topics.
Childline has been even receiving calls on physical abuse engendered by game addiction. “There was this incident in which the mother of a teenager got so worked up with her son’s devotion to the game that her impulsive strike left him with a fractured shoulder,” said Childline sources.
Cyber cell officials said the addicted children will be so engrossed in games that they would be simply ignorant of their surroundings and even their everyday conversations will be peppered with the game lingo. “There are many instances where parents lost money since the children will be often using their gadgets with the credit or debit card credentials already saved on them making payments easier. One parent lost over ₹2 lakh in this manner,” said a cyber cell official.
Since the culprits are their own children, in most parents prefer not to register cases.