That lots of Nigerian teenagers and youths are now more addictive to playing video games than ever and can’t be turned off the screens is a common knowledge. In this report, SAMUEL ABULUDE writes about the disturbing trend and how to curb obsession to it.
Charles Nwokobia is a ten year old boy from a middle class family, the first of four children and the only boy in his family. Being the first child afforded Charles some of the pleasures of life as his room is filled with toys.
Some of Charles’ hobby is playing football and also gaming- playing Nintendo, PS3 and PS4 and all varieties of computer games in his room. Being a brilliant boy and in second year of Junior Secondary School at Mafoluku Oshodi area of Lagos, Charles spends the larger part of his time on playing his video games.
He became so obsessed with video game that during light outs when all the other children have been told by their business woman- mother to go to bed early in preparation of tomorrow’s school, Charles will pretend that he’s asleep for some minutes during which his mum goes to check his room and after she leaves, he puts on his PS4 and beginning to play his favourite football club, Real Madrid Vs Any other club, indulging and spending hours before he falls asleep at 1 a.m..
This habit cultivated by the young lad took a worrisome trend and begin to affect his academics as the lad who normally blazes the trail in his class, came a distant 12th out of 20 pupils in his class.
This jolted his parent and his ever-travelling businessman father as they begin to ask questions why their prodigy suddenly came a distant 12th position in his class. Not too long, Charles’ sister told his mum that her elder brother normally plays his computer game long after everyone has gone to sleep at night.
This experience is not different from the case of 17-year old David Dike, a resident of Oregun, Lagos who turned video gaming to a nightly ritual sitting in his bed, staring at his laptop screen. All entreaties by the parents to admonish him to get off the computer didn’t yield the desired result.
His mother Mrs Esther Dike said their son was virtually slipping away, descending deeper and deeper into a realm they didn’t like or understand.
She noted that the teenager was ostensibly consumed by the virtual worlds shared by millions of strangers, all reachable through his computer.
’’My son’s addiction to video game was becoming something else. He requested for a laptop and we felt it will be useful to him in his studies in the school. But it became a very bad influence. He we to a spelling bee competition and was beaten by his younger sister. We discovered nothing else mattered to him except playing video games.
‘’An education consultant who helped us to come with a plan to help our son. His father had a sibling who was a catholic priest in the East and we spoke with him ahead of time about the problem before sending him to go and spend his holidays with him. The laptop was collected from him and ensured he had no access to smart phones.
‘’After the holiday he was given admission in the mission school. By the time he found himself in a different terrain, I think that kind of changed him. He is no-longer glued to laptop screens playing games. The unusual outburst he normally expressed that frightened us anytime you tell him to drop the game are no more and he is doing well now in his studies.’’
These stories typified the experiences of parents in this clime and beyond and the blame more often than not goes to the parents for not putting parental control on activities and addiction to their wards dalliance with gaming.
Most teenagers and youths who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday described video game-playing as an interesting chore and entertainment and something to occupy one with.
They noted that this is what young boys and teenagers as well as adults indulge in at home and at business centres because with a smart phone, video gaming is at everyone’s reach.
They however pointed out that when it becomes excessive, it becomes an issue as in all things, balance they say is the key to life.
Recently, the United Nations has classified addiction to gaming as a mental condition and this has causes an uproar among gamers in the social media.
Addiction to video games is now listed as a serious condition along with alcoholism. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also has classified gaming addiction as a medical disorder treatable on the NHS. A symptom of the disorder is ‘impaired control’ with increasing priority given to gaming and escalation despite negative consequences.
According to Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO, the list is, “the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorise conditions”.
The WHO also points out that anyone with gaming disorder are unable to stop playing. The draft states:
“The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent.”
Video Game: A Distraction Or Entertainment Gadget?
As it stands Video games are frowned upon by parents as time-wasters, and worse, some education experts think that these games corrupt the brain. Playing violent video games are easily blamed by the media and some experts as the reason why some young people become violent or commit extreme anti-social behaviour.
From Charles and David’s true life story, video games being use by young children ought to be heavily restricted and the time allocated for it.
But many scientists and psychologists found out that video games can actually have many benefits – the main one is making kids smart. Video games may actually teach kids high-level thinking skills that they will need in the future.
According to University of Wisconsin psychologist C. Shawn Green, “Playing video games change the brain’s physical structure the same way as do learning to read, playing the piano, or navigating using a map. Much like exercise can build muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine strengthen neural circuits that can build the brain.”
Since video games have benefits then, the parents of the use should apply parental control on the use of it like watching cartoons and child entertainment on cable channels.
A scientist said, “When your child plays video games, it gives his brain a real workout. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking. These skills are not even taught at school.
‘’The main benefits of playing video games involve enhancing mental skills that include: Problem solving and logic– Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills. In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time.
The Ugly Side Of Gamers
The problem is not restricted to this part of the world, there was a recent report in the SUN UK newspaper that more than 400,000 British teenagers have been lured into under-aged casino-style gambling through their video gaming.
The children, aged 13 to 18, have been able to gamble winnings from their video gaming on websites where they can bet them for cash on roulette wheel spins or other games of chance.
The online gambling, which is illegal for under 18s, has been made possible by the creation of virtual items called “skins”, modified weapons or costumes that players can win or buy in video games.
Now Parent Zone, an advice service for parents and schools, is demanding urgent action to close the loophole that allows skins to serve as a digital currency that can be gambled and cashed out.
Observers say in a country like Nigeria where laws on child education and control are almost non-existent or not well implemented, the government and advocacy groups should begin to look at how to protect the child from being distracted in his studies.
They pointed out that Cyber bullying is another interesting scenario where young kids are being violated online.
As far as they are concerned, the education of safe internet is key in sensitizing young children, students on the dangers and negative side to gaming and other internet-savvy devices that children utilise.
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