Going by the number of cases that are seen in NIMHANS, one in 14 children who report online addiction are bullied while playing games online.

Watch out for kids playing games online they are new targets for cyberbullyingImage for representation
Health Health Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 08:52

Siddarth’s* parents sought help from psychiatrists at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) as the 19-year-old was spending too much time online. Little did they know that the underlying concern was bigger.

Siddarth would spend close to 10 hours a day paying games online. Hailing from an upper socio-economic status family, he dropped out of college. According to psychiatrists who attended to him, Siddarth had started playing online games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and Clash of Clans from when he was 15.

What started off for three to four hours initially only increased by the day. Siddarth had started playing the game to get over his boredom and found that it saved him from loneliness. Gradually, the teen started associating the results of the games with worthiness.

With the excessive use of internet for games, the teen began to dedicate more time and associate with the games much more intensely than he previously did.

Eventually, Siddarth began showing signs of withdrawal from the real world, became more irritable and took less interest in everyday activities. That's when his parents brought him to the Services for the Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) Clinic at NIMHANS.

New form of cyberbullying

Speaking about Siddarth's case, Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, associate professor, NIMHANS, said that on taking a closer look at the case, they found there was an underlying problem.

Children getting addicted to online gaming comes with yet another worry and this is something that parents ought to watch out for, say experts.

While addiction to online games is a concern in itself, an emerging trend now reveals that children, mostly adolescents, are being subject to bullying because of this. What was once prevalent in schools in the form of ragging of underperforming children now applies online if a child fails to reach higher levels in a game.

This teen was a victim of a form of cyberbullying that Dr Manoj terms an ‘emerging trend’. Siddarth was a victim of online games bullying.

The child told counsellors that his team mates had been bullying him. From passing sarcastic remarks about his game scores to ridiculing him for previous failures, there was much that the teen was subjected to.

“There were comments about his intellectual and cognitive abilities as well. This led to low self-esteem and feeling very low,” Dr Manoj said.

Even as Siddarth continued to ignore the players who voiced opinions against him, the negative criticism had started to have an impact.

Doctors later motivated him to make lifestyle changes and advised psychological therapies for low mood states.

Experts at NIMHANS believe that many children, mostly those addicted to social media and excessive gaming, are being bullied online.

Dr Manoj explained that they see seven to eight cases of online addiction every week. At least one in 14 cases of online addiction has been a victim of bullying.

He explained that parents could watch out for symptoms such as children getting irritable, changes in mood, spending too much time online and loss of interest in everyday activities.

Peer pressure

Dr Bharathi Singh, founder, Sa-Mudra Foundation, who offers counselling to adolescents, said that it is out of peer pressure that children sometimes take to playing online games.

“Addiction to games is certainly on the rise. Recently, I heard from a class 10 student that he has to gain expertise in all these games if he must feel part of the group in school. Children have begun to assume that it is an intelligence that they have to build,” she said.

Raghu (name changed), a Class 10 student from a private school in Bengaluru, told Dr Bharathi that he had to learn these online games to be part of a group of friends.

“This was true even beyond school hours. Even if students ought to join for group studies with peers, these factors have started to matter. Their access to technology and ability to play games well is becoming a deciding factor in how the group treats them,” she explained.

Online gambling

Card games are the ones that children mostly gamble for, according to Dr Bharathi. She said that she has been seeing cases where children gamble for as low as Rs 100 and think it would help them with their everyday expenses.

“They start off at an age of about 12 -13. They get so involved in it that they fail to concentrate on academics. This in turn results in stress and anxiety issues during exams,” she said.

Playing games online and getting addicted to them seems to have gone a step forward. Students are also looking at this as a source of income, explain counsellors working with them. Dr Bharathi said that many children take to online gambling and also fall victims to bullying due to this.


*Name changed