Parents should impose 'Game Over' on addicts

Parents should impose 'Game Over' on addicts

Friday, 09 October 2009

Media Type
The Straits Times (Review Editorial)

Parents should find it a surprise, if not shocking, that a preliminary finding on gaming habits shows children spend 27 hours a week playing video games. When it completes its study, the National Institute of Education will presumably clarify if the figure refers to those who play such games or to all the 3,000 students it is tracking. Anecdotal accounts suggest young gamers here match if not outdo their peers elsewhere in time spent on the joystick. According to Touch Cyber Wellness and Sports, a youth service group, it is not uncommon for youngsters to spend 27 hours or more on such games. One typical teenager cited in a Straits Times report on the habit said playing World of Warcraft four hours a day was 'nothing'.

A 2007 Harris Interactive online poll in the United States found 81 per cent of 1,200 American youths played video games at least once a month. Teenage boys spent 14 hours a week and teenage girls, eight hours. China requires players aged under 18 to stop after three hours and 'do suitable physical exercise'. For even a regimented society, that would be hard to bring off. The World Health Organisation has not so far included video game addiction in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases. The American Psychological Association says research is too scanty to add the addiction to its new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition in 2012. Such classifications, however, should be treated with caution.

But whether a disorder or a passing phase, the symptoms are similar to psychological addictions such as compulsive gambling. Parents should be concerned. Preventive and remedial action starts with them. Government, industry and community organisations can only extend institutional help. The Cyber Wellness Task Force and the former Parents Advisory Group for the Internet (PAGi) have worked with the National Internet Advisory Committee in recent years to advise the Media Development Authority (MDA) on online safety, including steps to counter gaming addiction and aggression.

The classification MDA introduced last year restricts games to players above 16 or 18 years old according to maturity, not addictiveness, of content. Addictiveness exists only in bravado game advertising, not as a regulatory measure. There are not as many objective criteria to develop such an index for classification purposes. Regulatory limitation becomes even more obvious if parents ignore such ratings, as they can with the M18 label. It is more effective to convince parents to counsel moderation and balance - or to have built-in controls display 'Game Over' to shut addicts down.

Source: The Straits Times (Review Editorial), sph