Ghaziabad, June 8 (IANS) The case of religious conversion using the Fortnite gaming app, wherein children were allegedly motivated and encouraged to read verses of the Quran and offer Namaz to “win games” before eventually they embraced Islam, has once again drawn attention towards children taking to the virtual world due to neglect or lack of attention they experience at home.
A cleric (maulavi) in Ghaziabad was arrested on Sunday in connection with the conversion case. The matter has created quite a flutter, sending alarm bells ringing across the security agencies, with mental health experts emphasising on parents giving more attention to their children, whose delicate minds are soft targets.
Psychiatrists believe that children turn to the virtual world and begin finding a parallel universe mainly due to the loneliness and neglect they feel or face at home.
Anuneet Sabharwal, a psychiatrist and founder-director at The Happy Tree De-addiction and Mental Health Hospital, told IANS that children’s screen time (on TV or cellphones) increases mainly due to the ambience at home, loneliness, and a feeling of being neglected.
Sabharwal said episodes of trauma and sexual harassment also lead to children spending more time in the virtual space, adding that their brain begins absorbing the imagery of the virtual domain, and it impacts their mind and overall mental growth.
According to Sabharwal, since children’s brains are generally at a formative stage, “they believe that all that happening in the virtual space takes place in the actual world as well”.
In the conversion episode that recently surfaced, the perpetrators usually looked for children whose screen time was on the higher side, those who stayed aloof from the family, and had less involvement in social gatherings.
Sabharwal said that children who usually fall into such gaming app traps prefer to stay alone, talk about random things out of the blue, while a significant behavioural change is also noticed in them.
Parents should keep a watch on such ‘deviated’ children, according to Sabharwal, who believes that keeping an eye on them should be the primary task of the parents.
“Parents, mainly whose children are aged 8-9, should note what their kids are more interested in,” he said.
“If a child loses track at this age, things can be corrected with timely intervention of the parents and relatives,” Sabharwal added.
Meanwhile, the police and investigating teams are looking for the prime accused in the case, Shahnawaz Khan, a.k.a. Baddo, who is learnt to be a tech-savvy who changes his SIM cards and locations frequently, making it challenging for those in his pursuit to trace him.