Sunday, May 31, 2020

Online gaming and its associated risks for children

With the closure of educational institutions and restricted movements in the community because of COVID-19 situation in the country, our children have been finding it difficult to spend their time meaningfully at home. They have no friends to hang out with and no places to go to for outdoor activities. They are increasingly growing restless and anxious. As a result, most of them have been going online to interact with their virtual friends and play online games, and with the e-learning classes going on, it has been even more challenging for the parents to monitor what their kids are using the internet for.

The risk of children getting addicted to online gaming is high at this point of time as they have no other means of engagement and physical interactions with their friends. I have met many parents who have expressed concerns about their children spending more time online. If they are not properly monitored and given appropriate support on time, there is a huge risk that they might ultimately get themselves lost in the ecstatic pleasures and excitement of those online games forever and deviate from the normal functioning of life. The addiction to online gaming is as serious and dangerous as that of drugs and alcohol. It is therefore important to constantly monitor and guide our children to make sure that they are fully aware of the risks and dangers of internet addiction, especially the online games like PUBG and Mobile Legend. The following are some of the reasons why online gaming is dangerous:

Firstly, research studies have confirmed that online gaming changes the brain regions responsible for controlling attention, impulses, motor, sensory-motor and coordination. It is also found to be associated with the lower white matter in the brain region responsible for decision-making and emotional regulations. This means that in the long run, addiction to internet gaming can impair our neurological functions. We have now started seeing videos of PUBG addicts suffering from mental disorders, and here is one such video from India.

Secondly, online games usually consume huge internet data load making them expensive. This causes financial burden on the players and their families. The addictive nature of the games forces people to spend a lot of money on the internet which is a complete waste of resources. The players get absolutely nothing valuable in return, other than a mere sense of satisfaction and gratification.

Thirdly, these online games make people spend more time in isolation, away from their friends and families. They would start finding more pleasure and comfort in being alone, only interacting with the world on the internet. As a result, they would find it difficult to interact and develop positive relationships with people in the real world as they grow up.

Last but not the least, constant exposure to internet gaming leads to direct health complications such as vision problems, headaches and back and neck pain. In the long run, these conditions can lead to further complications if we don’t take care of ourselves on time.

However, there are also educational and less violent games on the internet that are said to enhance one’s creativity and innovation if played responsibly. As parents, we need to encourage our children to play more of such games, if they ever have to, but with strict monitoring and guidance to make sure that they don’t play to the extent of affecting their own physical and mental health. The best thing we can do at this point of time when they are locked up at homes is to encourage them to read books, watch good movies, listen to their favorite songs and engage them in household chores so that they don’t get bored and think about their video or online games. This is the time for us to rebuild our relationships at home and strengthen our family bonding. Let us always stay close to our children and help them spend their time as meaningfully and healthily as possible at least until they go back to school.

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