They’ll cut themselves, brave flames, and even induce choking to win a dare. For some of Mumbai’s kids, it is all about winning the game, even if it costs them their life.Psychologist Pradnya Aklekar explains how two 13-year-old boys played a lethal game, just because they could. “It was a case of one-upmanship where each boy cut himself to see how much blood oozes out. The one who managed to place a larger cut without having too much blood loss was the winner.”

Increasingly, parents are now trying to monitor the games their kids play. Prema Chadhha, who has a 16-year-old daughter, says, “My girl was fascinated with fire. I used to catch her playing with matchsticks all the time, but I wasn’t too worried.” It wasn’t long, however, before Prema saw burn marks on her daughter’s hand and it was terrifying.

“I took her to my family counsellor, who found out that she was inflicting the pain on herself.” Prema later discovered that it was a case of truth or dare coupled with peer-pressure that was causing her daughter to do this.

But how do Mumbai’s affluent kids learn about such lethal games? The Internet, which seems to be the most obvious information source, has a host of websites that give step-by-step instructions on how to play games like the infamous Choking Game and Russian Roulette.

“Parents should keep an eye on the websites their kids surf. There just doesn’t seem to be enough awareness,” says Aklekar. Cyber experts hope that lethal gaming websites don’t become as popular as Japan’s famous Internet suicide cults that promoted mass suicide.

According to school counsellor Neha Patel, lethal dare games are popular because they give children a brief sense of euphoria. She claims, that at the core of the issue, lies the fact that kids aren’t being monitored when they surf the Internet. “Kids want to get a feel for death. They are attracted by the mystery that surrounds it,” she says.

One could blame it on innocence or youthful exuberance, but there are several youngsters who don’t know that they are playing with their lives. “I knew of a young girl who engraved the initials of a boy she liked on her wrist. She was too young to realise the risk she had taken,” says Patel.

What seems to be the problem, however, is that children these days are far more tech-savvy than their parents, allowing them to surf dangerous websites far from prying eyes.

But that may be about to change, as parents wake up to the vile dangers that haunt the Internet, waiting for an impressionable mind to chance upon them.

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