Is Your Child Vulnerable on the Web? Look out for These Signs

As a parent these are the signs you need to watch out for in vulnerable teens.

2 min read

The recent suicide of a 14-year-old boy in Mumbai and rumours that his death was related to the Blue Whale Challenge, a macabre online game that targets teens, has got parents worried.

How do you deal with children when their world is so intrinsically linked to the world of internet? How do you set limits? And when do you know your child has crossed the line from use to abuse?

We spoke with clinical psychologists Priyanka Mittal and Puroitree Majumdar from Children First to get the answers.

What is Internet Addiction?

Priyanka says when your time spent on the internet starts affecting your life, when it takes over your life, you can’t disengage, it affects your mood, it becomes all engulfing and you feel you cannot live without it, it’s time to worry.

Is Internet Addiction on the Rise?

Doctors say they are seeing more and more cases every month and concerned parents are reaching out to them. Internet addiction disorder is included in the list of disorders by the American Psychiatry Association. Seeing the rise in number of cases, NIMHANS in Bangalore opened India’s first tech de-addiction centre in 2014.

Blue Whale Game – Why Can’t the Kids Disengage

Puroitri says challenges like Blue Whale play on the psychology of a young child. It works on threats. For a child, fear of being found out is the biggest reason they keep at it. Fear of what friends will think, what parents will think, will I be seen as a loser or failure plays on the mind.

Parents need to create an environment where the child can interact with them without fear, where they can reach out and talk.

What is Violent Gaming Disorder?

Gaming can be so addictive. It’s exciting to be part of this world, of this almost cult. Games build a fantasy world where you have a sense of control to fight demons, something you can’t always do in real life.

Most importantly, there is instant rewards and gratification. You get points for your achievements. Real life has no instant rewards, they have to be earned and they take time. All this make the world of gaming very enticing for young kids.

What Are the Signs of Distress?

Experts say it is important to understand and know who your child is, and keep an eye out for changes your child is undergoing.

  • Are his grades dropping?
  • Showing anxiety towards performance?
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Is he withdrawn?
  • Irritable?
  • Having morbid thoughts?
  • Low self-esteem?
  • Loss of appetite?
  • Lack of sleep?

Advice to Vulnerable Teens

Priyanka says teens should know there is someone around who loves you and will listen to you. Reach out to people, talk about what you are going through, find safe spaces and seek professional help.

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