Online video gaming has become one of the world’s preferred leisure activities among youth. Mobile phones are the foremost preferred devices, but experienced gamer (s) tend to shift to larger screens with an 86 per cent stake, an 11 per cent stake for laptops and 4 per cent for tablets.
Researches have consistently shown that gaming can bring many positive benefits including therapeutic, medical, health, cognitive and academic benefits. There are many other benefits and some of the ‘learning and development benefits’ can be a great source to develop early learning skills for younger children, enhance memory, brain speed, and concentration, improved multi-tasking skills and promotes teamwork and builds confidence amongst kids.
However, gaming can be problematic and potentially addictive and there is no formal rating system in India. There has been no formal study on the negative psychosocial impact of Indian gamers and we have tried to illustrate few international examples for awareness purposes.
Online gaming has multiple ways of participation today that includes:
(a) Channels: Via browser, apps& pre-loaded gadgets
(b) Device used: Consoles, PC/ laptops and mobile/laptops
(c) Modes of playing: Offline& Online
Rating of games
EC= Early Childhood- Content that may be suitable for children aged three or more.
E= Everyone- Content that may be suitable for ages six and above.
T= Teen- Content that may be suitable for ages 13 and above.
M= Mature- Content that may be suitable for ages 17 and above.
AO= Adults Only- Content suitable only for adults i.e. above 18.
(i) Pictures (ii) Parental guidance (iii) Violence and (iv) Bad language
(a) Puzzle: Problem solving skills (Eg: Rush Hour)
(b) Action: Physical challenges – (Eg: The Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild)
(c) Strategy: Gamer(s) decision making skills (Eg: Starcraft with Brood War Expansion)
(d) Adventure: Story-based (Eg: Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Mystery)
(e) Arcade: Single-player games (Eg: Space Invaders)
(f) Sports: (Eg: EA Sports Cricket)
(g) Skill based: Mental skills (Eg: Poker)
(a) In-app advertisement
(b) In-game product
(c) Incentive based advertisement
(d) Purchase/pay per download
(f) In-app purchases
Internet gaming disorder
As the name suggests, internet gaming disorder is an addiction to excessive mobile, pc or console gaming. Popular games such as PubG, Candy Crush, and Fortnite have gotten teenagers and adults equally addicted on their electronic devices. A study by www.wearesocial.com shows that an average gamer in India spends about 4-5 hours of his day on gaming.
Obsessive computer game playing can be harmful in certain settings. It can easily distract one from completing their tasks and can also distract office workers during their jobs. Such an addiction can be diagnosed when an individual spends more time on online games and engages in them even when it has a harmful effect on their daily tasks and responsibilities. In the recent past, almost 35 plus Chinese gaming apps were banned in India, which include PUBG Mobile, Carrom Friends, Ludo All-Star.
Despite the popularity of gaming in India, there have been no formal comprehensive studies on the negative psychosocial impact. American Psychiatric Association notes that symptoms like preoccupation with gaming, withdrawal symptoms when not gaming or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability, suicide and substance addiction), inability to reduce playing time, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming, giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming, etc., can indicate a potential gaming addiction.
Recommendations for kids and parents
* Enable parental controls for all gaming apps
* Set time limits. Use family cellphone agreement and internet Screen Time Agreement. You can download these from https://www.endnowfoundation.org/downloads.php
* Keep phones and other gadgets out of the bedroom and don’t allow kids to play at night.
* Keeping personal information private while playing online games
* Dealing with stress and anger while gaming by taking regular breaks.
* Being critical of spending money in-app purchases (Parents suggested to keep low credit value cards)
* Keeping the language positive and avoid cyberbullying
* Set privacy controls and stop a possible online abuse
* Green time is more important than screen time. Ask you kids to go out and play.
(The author is the founder of End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org)
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