Youth stuck on video games; Young Singaporeans spend 27 hours a week playing games, which raises fears over impact
Monday, 05 October 2009
The Straits Times
Singapore students spend 27 hours a week playing video games like Maple Story and World of Warcraft.
The statistic, uncovered by an ongoing National Institute of Education (NIE) study, is raising concern over the impact of such games, and the extent of gaming addiction here.
The three-year study, the biggest of its kind in Singapore, is looking at more than 3,000 primary and secondary school students' gaming habits, and will be finished at the end of the year.
NIE declined to reveal more about it pending an analysis of the results.
One thing is clear though: Singapore youth really like video games.
Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew, who revealed the 27-hour statistic at a Singapore Press Club event last month, said he was 'quite surprised and a little bit shocked' that the figure was so high.
He may have grounds for concern: American youths spend just 13 hours a week dragon-slaying, but a significant number are feeling the harmful effects of playing too much.
In a study of 1,200 American children and teens, aged eight to 18, published in the prestigious Psychological Science journal, 8.5per cent of those who played games were found to show signs of 'pathological gaming', which means that gamers play so much that the hobby hurts their academic performances and relationships.
For years now, experts have been warning of the problem, which has seen severe cases needing treatment at mental institutions to wean them off their fix. Statistics, though, are only now beginning to emerge.
Figures from other countries are not readily available, although concern about the impact of video games has risen alongside their popularity.
The American study noted that it was also possible that poor students, or those with social problems, play a lot to get away from their real life issues.
Confirming some stereotypes, pathological gamers also tend to be male and suffer from health problems like back and wrist injuries.
The study's author, Iowa State University professor Douglas Gentile, is also involved with the NIE project.
'Kids play so much because they find games fun and rewarding,' he said.
The statistics resonate with counsellors and gamers.
According to Touch Cyber Wellness and Sports manager Poh Yeang Cherng, 27 hours a week or more is not uncommon among the pathological gamers he counsels. Some heavily addicted gamers spend far more time than that. Many refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem.
For World of Warcraft fan Lawrence Lee, 16, playing for four hours a day 'is nothing'.
During a six-month period last year, Lawrence played for six hours on weekdays and 'the whole weekend, from Friday until Sunday night'.
'I slept and studied only when my parents forced me to,' he said. 'I even skipped brushing my teeth in the morning occasionally...It is the novelty, like getting to know a new girlfriend. You want to spend every minute with her.'
The Government is concerned about cyber-wellness issues and has formed an inter-ministry committee to look into ways to deal with them.
Trying to regulate how young people use the Internet will not work, said Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui, but some possible fixes include educating gamers on how to manage their time, and parental supervision.
Source: The Straits Times, sph