video game
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This article is written by Ronika Tater, from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, School of Law. In this article, she discusses the harmfulness of video games used by children and the pathological preoccupation with video games from the point of view of human rights. Also, highlights the solution to overcome such a situation.

Introduction

With the advent of the internet and flexible and convenient access to everyone irrespective of age, it has simultaneously brought advantages and disadvantages. One of the concerning factors is the introduction of online violent games such as Pubg, counter-strike, etc. These online violent games are built in such a way that a child enjoys killing another human being in the game world. Consequently, affecting the minds of a child and their psychological upbringing. This is a matter of concern not only from a personal level but also from the human rights view. Hence, it is important to safeguard the health and the safety of the child by incorporating preventive steps to overcome this.

What are human rights

“Human rights belong to each and every one of us equally”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was constituted by the United Nations to provide standards that protect the dignity and integrity of all human beings. It recognizes and governs how an individual should live in society. It also states that there is a relationship between the society and the state should look after them. Governments are obliged to perform or prevent them from doing some act that may conflict with the human rights of others. Individual people also have responsibilities to respect the rights of others and not misuse their rights. Some of the essential features of human rights are below-mentioned:

Universality and inalienability 

This means that humans are everywhere in the world. Neither of them can voluntarily give their rights up nor can take them away from others.

Indivisibility

Human rights cannot be divided into small rights, regardless of civil, political, economic, social or cultural. Every human is entitled to have equal status with such rights.

Interdependence and interrelatedness

Every human being is dependent on one another wholly or partly depending on the situation. For instance, protecting the right to health of one person depends on the realization of the right to profess any business or profession or of the right to information. The case of launching online violent video games on children is directly impacting their health and overall development.

Equality and non-discrimination

All human beings are equal by the virtue of their existence as human beings. Every individual is entitled to their human rights without discrimination irrespective of their race, colour, sex, age, language, birth, religion, caste, disability, or any other status.

Participation and inclusion

Every human being is entitled to active, free and convenient participation and to contribute their opinions in all spheres of life whether of civil, political, economic, social or cultural development. Hence, every human being must know the beneficial and harmful effects of video games on children.

Accountability and transparency

Every state is obliged to comply with the standard legal norms enshrined in human rights instruments. In case of any violation of human rights, the aggrieved party can institute a proceeding in front of the competent court or any other adjudicator as per the rules and procedures established by law.

Rights of children 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was constituted by the United Nations in consonance with the UDHR with the objective that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child defines the term “child” by his or her physical and mental immaturity who needs special safeguards and care and appropriate legal protection. Hence, it is the fundamental responsibility of the society and the community to establish a natural environment for their growth and development and take all the necessary steps for their protection and assistance. Moreover, the convention provides the standards of the ideals as declared by the United Nations consisting of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, solidarity and equality.

What is online gaming 

The fast-paced technological innovation and high-speed internet accessibility of the internet and mobile devices with internet connectivity have transformed whole society around the world, especially children. In recent times, children from a very early age have adopted and got acquainted with the technologies resulting in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) being an essential part of their lives. This access to technology has led to the rise in abuse and exploitation of children, thereby resulting in dynamic changes in the behaviour of children’s health. Most children are not aware of the harmful effects of these technologies due to a lack of parental supervision and monitoring. This puts children at most risk as engaging in violent games and sharing information and personal content with strangers may turn out to be a threat or misuse of their rights.

Online gaming is one of the major factors affecting a child’s overall growth and development. It forms an adrenaline rush with the depictions of violent visuals to engage players for a long period of time. The games are formed in such a way to win and attract more points and compare it with other peers, strangers from all around the world. 

Some children usually get obsessed and addicted to online gaming and prefer to stay in their virtual life rather than playing in their real-life which is slow-paced and less easily controlled. Subsequently, children are easy prey to the offenders who try to engage children through a virtual setting and control them by forming a relationship through these games. They have the potential to manipulate the children’s social status by creating an environment of virtual friends. Offenders may use this opportunity to extract their personal information such as birth dates, pictures, school information. Moreover, the offender may gain their physical location where a child uses an online application.

The harmful effect of online gaming

In the present times, online games are formed in such a way to attract children, eventually leading to the children’s exposure to harmful online content. According to the Study on the Effects of New Information Technologies on the abuse and exploitation of children, it has shown that exposure to the internet may lead to exposure to harmful online content. The child may accidentally or intentionally access pornographic or related content that may affect their growth and development or otherwise. Harmful content can be categorized in a broad term consisting of audio, visual, written or in other material leading to negatively influence the children’s behaviour which may have a long term effect. It may consist of online pornography, violent video games, content on racial or ethnic hatred or any other sexual material.

Further, it has been seen that children may be exposed to harmful content by deliberately searching for or while playing any such video games which display pop-up advertisements from spam operators. These pop-up advertisements or any sexual content displayed on these websites may affect the children with the experience or signs of stress from the exposure while some children are not affected by them. 

Children who are not affected by the content may form curiosity to gain more knowledge about the content or information. In either of these situations, the exposure of these harmful content has the power to influence the mind of the children and impact the child’s development of values and morals. These gaming websites have the potential to distract children from their academics and get them addicted to these games. While some websites and games provide the age restriction in their terms and conditions in order to ensure the children are not exposed to these violent ages at a younger age. 

Another factor affecting the child’s health through online gaming

One of the other factors which may affect child health due to online gaming is social isolation. Online gaming may lead to negative repercussions on children as they have difficulty in seeking help from the outside. According to research conducted on socially isolated young people, it has been shown that the children may face an increased risk of exploitation such as bullying from their peers in real life. Hence, these isolated children turn to their online friends to befriend them and in certain circumstances publicly share personal information with their online friends, consisting of offenders.

The government of India’s stance on online gaming

In September 2020, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds mobile (PUBG) and similar games in India were banned due to their violent, explicit, and addictive nature which has the potential to create a complex in the minds of children and PUBG had the same effects on children. The video game industry designs games with graphic and violent content to make the game interesting thereby, attracting the focus of children. On moral grounds, the Government of India is trying to protect children from such censorship and violent videos or erotic expression. Consequently, there has been a conflict between the governments and the gaming corporation. The government established a “Centre of Excellence” with the collaboration of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay to look into the conduct of online gaming. Prakash Javedekar, the Union Minister of information and broadcasting stated that in order to promote and preserve the Indian values, heritage, and culture of India, the government is trying to make an effort so that the children and youth are acquainted and aware of our heritage and tradition. The only solution is not to criticise the online violent games but to create India’s online games and applications under the project of Make in India for the world. This would create awareness about the basic values of India not only in the country but also outside the world.

Rules and regulations

It is essential to note that there is no specific statute in India to regulate video games or in the case of obscenity or violence depicted in such games. Also, there are no judicial precedents to abide by on how to regulate the video gaming industry. Nonetheless, the following are some of the provisions which should be considered in case any situation arises:

  • Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India provides the freedom of speech and expression and also the exception to such freedom in the interest of decency and morality.
  • Article 39(e) and (f) of the Constitution of India provides that it is a directive state policy to ensure that the tender age of children should not be subjected to abuse, exploitation and moral and material abandonment. The State should ensure to facilitate and develop policies that protect the freedom and dignity of children.

The Indian courts have recognized that the linking of violent activities depicted in online video games have a far-reaching effect on children. Psychiatrists around the world have often stated that the behaviour change in the mind of a child is linked with the violence to video games. Hence, it is a matter of concern and the government and the video gaming industry should come in harmony to make the digital world a safe place for every individual, especially children.

Conclusion

The harmful effects of online games lead to the deterioration of a child’s health and psychology. Hence, it is necessary to develop policy guidance to regulate human conduct. Recent policies should be made to orient, train and support parents, teachers, and children in recognising and coping with the conduct of online game environments. With consideration to exposure of harmful content or bullying attention should be paid to educating parents and children in their educational institution about the hazards associated with the gaming world. The focus should be primarily paid to the parents as children are under the assistance of them and parents have to facilitate and protect them. Such policies are made in consultation with the parents to cope with the perpetrator and take action on time. Nonetheless, the standards should be made in such a sense so that they create a link between social responsibility, human rights, and child protection.

References


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