The lockdown has prompted reliance on the virtual world to stay connected socially. It is invariably leading to strong resonance for online gaming in children and adolescence. As most major cities in India have limited living spaces and negligible play areas, online gaming addiction has become a grave concern. It is not a sudden lifestyle disorder or a by-product of the pandemic but has been a major concern since the advent of consoles and online gaming.
In fact, in June 2018, the WHO declared compulsive gaming as a mental health disorder. It impairs all or major areas (personal/professional/social) of a person’s daily functioning. If you pick a newspaper or surf through online platforms, you will come across endless stories and shocking incidents regarding the life-changing impact of gaming addiction on Indian students and youth. There have been rising incidents of loss of mental stability and theft to make in-app purchases from parents’ bank accounts after the launch of PUBG (multiplayer survival shooter game).
Did you know that a lot of the behaviours displayed by addicted teens can go amiss? Let’s discuss some of the indicators we should watch out for:
Currently, we are all tied to the world virtually! Our constant reliance on technology and online platforms have become a norm. Now, this adds to parents' woos, but there are a couple of practical ways that can aid in reducing gaming addiction. Read on to discover valuable parenting tips.
Gaming addiction activates pleasure centres of the brain similar to eating chocolates or those found in cases of drug abuse. Resisting and inhibition are generally low in children and teens. Additionally, there is constant gratification and the rewards and stimulus of goal achievement add to the addiction.
So, using the principles of how addiction works, parents and caretakers can create a similar reward system. We know it sounds pretty simple but it can be tricky! However, if you learn to do this right can help your children build a rather productive habit.
Firstly, parents can create charts or have timetables where every household or related chores like cleaning, getting essentials, helping with cooking, etc will be recorded. Secondly, there will be pre-assigned rewards for the completion of a set of chores. Finally, there will be rewards given after accounting for how many chores were completed.
You should be mindful that the rewards must be consistently provided at the completion of agreed chores. Rewards can range from getting their favourite snacks, extra television time or a longer study break. You pick what will excite and keep your child motivated!
Now you’d be questioning, why does this work?
So, rewards are nothing but incentives. These will push the kids to finish their tasks. Also, you can include all the siblings and keep everyone involved in completing the tasks. Healthy competition can further motivate them to push and earn more rewards. The ultimate goal is to keep them productive and limiting access to their gaming devices.
The Indian Journal of Public Health, claims that post the lockdown, 50.8% of the participants will spend more time gaming. At times the easiest way to get over an addiction is getting a substitute to stay engaged. Parents can get their kids mentally stimulating games like scrabble, chess, monopoly, puzzles, etc. Several of these games are multiplayer games. It can also harness family bonding and help everyone spend quality time together.
If from a young age we promote the importance of community help and volunteering, children will grow up into adults who will contribute to society and its betterment. Parents and even schools can encourage kids to be part of non-profit organizations and volunteering groups be it local, national, or even at a community level.
Several religious organizations or building societies have weekly/monthly/yearly events and service arrangements. Kids can be encouraged to be a part of them. It will not only keep them engaged but will also help develop social ties and build friendships.
When we are physically exhausted or tired, don’t we disengage from everything? Of course, we do! So use that trick on your kids!
Channeling a child’s energy into physical or mentally stimulating tasks can help disengage from online gaming addiction. You could enroll children in physically exhaustive classes, if permissible, like karate, dancing, vocational workshops, etc. Or you could encourage developing hobbies like playing an instrument, crafting, art, yoga, etc. These activities can not only add to a child’s skillset but also could lead to a future career choice and most importantly it will keep them engaged.
There might be a point or situation where the parents cannot handle the child’s gaming addiction. The behavior and mental state could be severely affected. There are a number of integrative mental-health wellbeing platforms that offer psychological assessment online, plus you can even seek tele-counselling from the comfort of your home. These platforms offer multiple services like talking with a therapist through secure texting and even getting access to self-help materials for your mental health needs.
The gaming industry is booming and there is an ever-growing reliance on technology for everything. Hence, the only way to tackle the addiction is to spread awareness, be present and alert about changing behaviors and use the strategies mentioned above to minimize the game time.