THE RECENT suicide of a teenager in Panchkula, linked to the mysterious and apparently deadly online Blue Whale Challenge game, has jolted schools. They have now started holding awareness sessions with students about internet safety.
At the Sky World School in Panchkula’s Sector 21, principal Santosh Bhandari is taking a lead and holding interactive sessions on her own. On Friday, it is her second interactive session in the past 15 days. The session starts in the afternoon. Students from classes VII to X listen to Bhandari for 30 minutes on dos and dont’s of the internet surfing. Teenagers are said to be prime targets of the internet game.
“We have sent an advisory to parents about the game,” Bhandari told Chandigarh Newsline. “Here we are only teaching the children about internet safety and how important it is for the students not to hide anything from teachers and parents, about any online activity they are involved in.”
As she enters into the class, the first questions she asks the students to repeat what they had learnt from the last session. One by one, the students talk about advantages and disadvantages of internet.
The students are next asked about their access to mobile phones but only a few raise their hands. Apparently fearing a possible rebuke from the teacher, those who raise the hand have a unanimous statement to make: we use it for educational purpose and it is limited to only a few hours. “I use cellphone of my mother and she always keeps an eye on what I am surfing. I also used WhatsApp to remain connected with friends so that we don’t miss homework if I am absent from the school,” says a student.
During her half-an-hour session, the principal is cautious not to talk about the game. That is one of the challenges that Blue Whale poses for counsellors. There is now a view that talking about the game is as a deadly as the game perhaps is, as even students who do not know about it could become curious. Her lecture is limited to the basics of internet safety: bad and good in the vast world of the web.
“The most important thing is that you need to be aware, conscious and awake about what can be positive for me and my education on the internet,” says the principal as students nod their heads to show their agreement with the lesson. It’s a measure of the challenge that the students seem to know more about Blue Whale. Much to the shock of the principal and the teachers present in the classroom, a student suddenly gets up and says they already know about the game as they read about it in the papers.
“I have heard that you need to accept the link which says I am stupid. I can agree that children can become victims, but what about adults. Can’t they differentiate between good and bad,” says a girl student, Manupriya. Skirting around the student’s observation, principal Bhandari continues her lecture on what she think is very important for the children: they should not hide things from their elders. “If we are doing something, we shouldn’t hide. If you are hiding, it means that it’s going to be harmful. We have no reasons to hide,” she says. She adds, “So today we have learnt that if anyone is attracted to any website, we should pause and think and then share with parents or teachers. Because they can help you if you are doing any mistake.” The students are asked to read a 10-point pledge about the internet safety before the conclusion of the session.
As the session comes to an end, in a total contradiction to the earlier admission that only a few had access to the mobile phone; most students raised their hand when this reporter asked them about the game Clash of Clans. The answer is a surprise to many in the room, including the principal who now knows it is difficult to check what students are hiding in their phones.