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Monday 25 September 2017
News updated at 10:14 PM IST

How gaming affects students

Sathiyaseelan B and Anuradha Sathiyaseelan, Sep 7 2017, 0:05 IST
ADDICTIVE in nature Some of the behaviours that manifest as a result of addiction to gaming include poor sleep pattern, irritability and anger

ADDICTIVE in nature Some of the behaviours that manifest as a result of addiction to gaming include poor sleep pattern, irritability and anger

The menace of video or online gaming and its harmful impact are a major concern. In recent weeks, not a day has gone by without an incident related to online or video gaming. Compulsive video or online gaming is a modern psychological disorder. It is an addiction which is tending to become more common with the advent of technology. Why do children get addicted to gaming? What are the symptoms of this addiction? How to keep them safe from these addictions? These are some questions that parents and teachers need to ask when dealing with youngsters.

For instance, take the case of Jack (name changed). He was generally a cheerful boy but of late, he was looking very sad and worried. When his parents brought him to us for counselling, he looked shabby and untidy. He said he could not concentrate on studies nor was he motivated to do anything else. On probing further, he revealed that the character he was in love with in the game he was playing had died and he did not want to live anymore. This illustrates how children addicted to online or video gaming confuse the real with virtual world.

There is no clear scientific definition of addiction. But in general, addiction is associated with behavioural criteria like the person needs more of the same thing to keep him or her going and if the person does not get it, he or she becomes irritable and miserable. If we apply these criteria for defining addiction, then online or video gaming meets these criteria. Before we think of safeguarding our children from the dangers of addiction to video or online gaming, it is important to understand what makes these games addictive and recognise the symptoms of addiction.

Often, game designers aim at intertwining certain well-established psychological principles that ensure that players continue to play the game even if they are not enjoying it anymore. These games encourage online interactions with other players and demands players to be more dedicated to the team of fellow gamers, so that the tasks in the game can be accomplished. This often means that the player neglects real-world responsibilities.

Identifying the symptoms

The designers of games naturally expect the players to get addicted to their games. But there are other causes that lead to children getting addicted to games. Children are naturally interested in gadgets and the engaging nature of the games are very stimulating to them. Often, these games become an escape route for the children to avoid difficult situations. And with working parents, the modern life does not provide much time and space for supervision. As a result, children have access or are compelled to occupy themselves with other activities that will keep them engaged and gaming fills the void conveniently. Children who have anxiety in engaging socially or have low self-confidence are more likely to be prone to gaming addiction.

How does gaming addiction impact children’s education and life? Initially, children will start to perceive that their attention has improved as they tend to focus intently on playing the game. But with time, this will result in lack of focus in other daily work. Soon, the performance and involvement in academic or work-related activities will take a backseat. Some of the other behaviours that manifest as a result of addiction to gaming include poor sleep pattern, irritability and anger and in extreme cases even aggression when asked about anything at all. They will display poor or total lack of involvement with the ‘real’ world and have poor hygiene and self care.

This trend is alarming and as concerned parents, we need to ensure our children’s safety. So, take notice if your child is locking up himself or herself in a room with a laptop or smartphone, avoiding friends and family, and if teachers are sending notices on poor performance at school.

Curbing the addiction

What can you as a parent do to curb gaming addiction in your child? Here are some ways:

Set a time limit for playing games.

Ensure that your child is spending time with the family members and real-life friends.

Even if you have a hectic schedule, take effort to spend time with your children through activities like family outings.

However, if despite our best efforts, the child gets addicted to gaming, what are steps do we need to take? The treatment for gaming addiction is similar to that for other addictions. Individual and family counselling and psychotherapy are the most powerful tools for treatment.

Compared to other addictive disorders gaming addiction may not appear to be a serious issue. But the increasing instances of self-harm and suicides as a result of gaming addiction is a pointer that the issue needs greater attention.

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