Online gambling is no longer child’s play, watch out for real-life dangers | Bhopal News

BHOPAL: A 16-year-old boy shot his mother as she slept because she stopped him from playing online games. Not only that, he hid the body for two days and threatened his younger sister not to reveal it to anyone! A 13-year-old boy lost Rs 40,000 in an online game and when beleaguered parents inquired, he hanged himself.
Some time ago the world was rocked by a series of youth suicides as a “task” in games like The Blue Whale and Choking Challenge.
We can fill pages with similar bizarre and sad incidents, which keep increasing. For the generation for whom video games or online games were at most a waste of time harmful to the eyes, the parents of the above victims among them, the unimaginable extent of the proliferation of games in the minds of their children is often a crippling blow. .
If we try to decipher the main causes for the onslaught of online games and their addiction, the most important ones are availability, low costs, high internet penetration, speed, easy screen time, l advent of high-end graphics and processors. From being an urban luxury, now the Internet has permeated even the most remote villages. Add to that new technologies in data compression, screen resolution, processing power, screen refresh rate and we have the full real world experience in our hands!
A turbo boost as a side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused online gaming to take the world by storm. For two years, schools, colleges and many jobs went online. All social life was extinguished; all were cocooned in their own homes, with screens as the only contact with the outside and inside world!
Deprived of all entertainment, the focus has shifted to OTT and gaming. Already booming game companies sniffed out lockdown opportunities and went for the kill. Levels and varieties of extended features, virtual currencies, weapons and special abilities, all available at a cost, flooded paid online app stores and people went into a frenzy.
Simple figures suffice to illustrate the expansion of the gambling industry in our economic, family and social spheres. India has seen the number of mobile game app downloads increase by nearly 85%, from 6 billion (2018) to over 11 billion (2022). The number of online gamers has grown from 183 million (2017) to 390 million (2021), and is expected to reach 450 million by 2023. Additionally, 95 million of them are said to have paid to play in 2021. Unsurprisingly, revenues from the online gaming segment has increased from Rs 30 billion (2017) to over Rs 100 billion in 2021, and is expected to cross Rs 150 billion by 2024, 5 times in just seven years!
With this scenario, it becomes imperative for a holistic effort on all fronts – government, society and at home – to prevent our children from becoming slaves to the tantalizing fare on their screens to the point that they start losing their sleep, the hard work of parents. earned money and sometimes even their lives!
The government has taken a host of measures to prevent accidents. In 2020, India banned many gambling sites and issued a detailed notice for teachers and parents for online child safety in 2021.
Gambling being a state subject, many states have enacted laws to prohibit online gambling. Telangana was the first in 2017, followed by AP, Karnataka, Kerala. The deputy also proposes a law concerning the prohibition of online gambling. But many of these laws have fallen flat in the courts, with the debate over a game of chance, which is a game of money or a game of skill, which is not like the high Kerala court lifting ban on online rummy in 2021, declaring it a “game of skill”. Most fantasy sports sites have won in court against the ban on the same principles. Supreme Court of India also has petitions to approve banning online gambling from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
It is very difficult to implement the ban because online games are not location specific and it is difficult to ensure that a game is not available on Google Play Store or Apple Store in a state particular. At the national level too, it is difficult to keep track of a game reintroduced under another name, or downloaded via alternative platforms.
Regulating instead of banning is a better and easier approach to implement. The Indian government and states are considering parameters such as verifying the age limit, capping the time and money that can be spent in a single day, and regulating VPN. The Center hosted a consultative meeting with online gaming industry stakeholders in June this year to move towards a regulatory ecosystem. A working group has been proposed to recommend a uniform regulatory mechanism.
There is also a lot to do at home. Parents should monitor and verify the games children are playing. They also need to be aware of the money children spend online and prevent them from having unrestricted access to banking apps and parent cards. Screen time should be regulated and off-screen activities like outdoor sports, family time should be encouraged and praised. Children should be informed about the dark side of the gaming world like bullying, violation of privacy, harassment, propensity for violent acts, etc. They need to be made aware of the tragic incidents of blind gambling. One should not hesitate to take professional help for the children, if the need arises.
Clearly, we need to dive deep into controlling the harmful effects of online gambling, not child’s play anymore. We have to see it as “Call of Duty” to keep young minds from entering “Free Fire”, leading to “Clash of Clans” or falling victim to “Fire Fairy”, “Blue Whale” or “The Choking Challenge” .
(The author is ADG, Police and OSD to the Chief Minister)

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