Limit screen time to prevent game addiction among kids

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Parents must fully understand what the disorder is all about so they can properly set the boundaries.

Parents of young gamers must ensure their kids are not turning into gaming addicts, professionals in the e-sports industry have insisted. Comments poured in after a major health meeting in Abu Dhabi sparked discussions on how serious gaming addiction is worldwide.

Experts at the sixth edition of the Public Health Implications of Behavioural Addictions meeting said the problem needs to be treated “in the same way” as other common addictions. The National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi also announced on Saturday that it is set to open an outpatient clinic for gaming addicts next year.  A South African expat who owns the Valour e-sports team, James Mann, said parents “need to keep a closer eye on their kids”.

“There is a very small portion of kids, who actually fall under the ‘gaming disorder’ category. It becomes an issue when they refuse to get up to go to the bathroom, etc,” he said.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation had added gaming addiction to its International Classification of Diseases.

It described the addiction as “characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities”. Mann said parents must fully understand what the disorder is all about so they can properly set the boundaries.

“As a gamer myself and someone who works full time in the gaming industry, I need to stress the importance that parents need to make sure that they do not use the term ‘addiction’ so freely, as there is a very distinctive line between someone who enjoys games and someone who is addicted,” he explained.

“Three to four hours a day is not an addiction, gaming simply needs moderation. As long as the child is doing well in school or it is a career, there shouldn’t be an issue.

“The term ‘addiction’ by parents and individuals shouldn’t be used lightly. Families would rather have their children watch TV with them. Many parents sit in front of the TV and watch Netflix for seven to nine hours, where is the line drawn?”

Two-hour limit

Hassan Abdullah, a 26-year-old gamer, said parents should keep their children’s gaming activity to two hours maximum, which he believes is enough for games that don’t have a pause option.

“Addiction begins when kids get to play online games. Since there is no ‘pause’, you have to finish off the game. Online games such as Fortnite and League of Legends average from 30 to 40 minutes. But kids develop the thrill to play longer so they can score differently in each game – this eventually leads them to being addicted to it,” said Abdullah, who also competes in various tournaments.

At the recent health meeting, Dr Hamad Al Ghaferi, director-general of the NRC, said: “The popularity of video games in the UAE means that the potential for addiction is always a possibility and we can anticipate more comprehensive studies into gaming addiction that can lead to guidelines to limit screen and gaming time.”

Gaming addiction kills

>On November 6, it was reported that a Thai teen suffered a stroke and died at his computer after carrying out all-night gaming sessions during his school holidays. The 17-year-old’s father was quoted by international media as saying that he wanted his son’s death to “be an example and warning” for parents whose children are gaming addicts. “They need to be stricter on their children’s playing hours, otherwise they could end up like my son,” he had said.

>In May 2019, a 15-year-old Indian went into cardiac arrest and died while playing PUBG. He was reportedly suffering from a gaming addiction.

> In 2015, a 32-year-old male collapsed and died at a Taiwanese internet café after a nonstop three-day gaming session.