Days after a 14-year-old from Andheri jumped to his death, allegedly as part of an online suicide game called the Blue Whale Challenge, Mumbai schools are on the warpath. Amid concerns that more children might take to the horrific game, schools have now turned to counselling, community service and other activities to teach students to value life and use technology responsibly.
Also read: How the Blue Whale game brainwashes kids
Andheri resident Manpreet Sahans, 14, is being touted as the first Indian victim of the Blue Whale game, which has already claimed over 130 lives globally. The game, which had an underground following, has now come into the national spotlight since the boy's death. With so much talk about it, experts are worried that curiosity might draw more kids to try the game.
At the Bombay Scottish School, the management is considering community service to turn students' attention to what really matters. Principal Sunita George said, "We want our students to interact with underprivileged children who do not have as many opportunities as them, so students can understand their struggle. It might help the children understand the value of life. The key is to help children to handle emotions."
She added, "It will be unfair to ask children to stay away from the Internet. What we need to tell them is how to be careful, and that is what we have been doing with several workshops on responsible use of technology, as well as creating awareness about cyber bullying."
Workshops and counselling
Workshops are also being held at the Chatrabhuj Narsee School, where experts will guide teachers and parents to identify children who might have fallen victim to such activities. The school also plans to organise counselling sessions for the students and parents. "Some time ago, another game, Pokémon, had raised concerns. The names and types of challenges may change, but the issue is persistent. That's why we are organising a workshop for children, as well as teachers and parents. The workshops will be led by experts in child psychology," said the school director.
Parents, look for warning signs
One of the experts leading the workshops is paediatrician Dr Khushal Avasthi, who said, "Parents need to keep a watch on whether the child is facing peer pressure. If a child is not able to stay away from his/her electronic device, or s/he is skipping meals to play online games - it is a sign of addiction."
At Jamnabai School, too, such matters have become a subject of daily discussion during the morning assembly.
Principal Zeenat Bhojabhoy said, "Every morning, the first 15 minutes are dedicated to talk to children about such burning issues. These are interactive sessions where students also put forth their opinions; this helps us understand the psyche of different children."
CM promises a ban
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has promised to get the Centre's assistance to ban the Internet suicide game, Blue Whale Challenge, which has killed a teenager in Andheri. Fadnavis said, "The game was hosted through an Internet server that is not in India. We are inquiring into the boy's death and also collecting all information related to the game." The CM made a statement in the Assembly yesterday when NCP leader Ajit Pawar asked Fadnavis, who also heads the Home department, to rein in the game.
>> Police surgeon, Dr S M Patil said, "Our doctor conducted the autopsy and concluded that it was a suicidal fall and death was due to multiple injuries."
>> Forensic expert at Siddharth Hospital's post-mortem centre found that the teenager had fractured ribs, major blunt injuries to liver along with contused lacerated wounds on the face and body
>> There were no self-inflicted wounds or tattoos that are made as part of Blue Whale game
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