The hidden hazards of video games
He loved to play hide and seek, tag, and any random silly game they could invent with a ball.John could out run most of his comrades.
Then, he was given a cellular phone of his own.
The active, bright young boy changed overnight. The cell phone he had been given came pre packed with all kinds of games. John was instantly hooked. After school he spent most of his time playing mobile games.
The change did not go unnoticed by Saira, Jaun’s mother. “Sometimes I found him playing in the middle of the night, desperate to clear a level he was stuck upon,” she said. She was worried that the obsession with games will seep into his academic performance. Eventually, it did.
Jaun stopped paying attention to his studies. He was disinterested in books, and would often leave his homework undone. His school results started reflecting his poor interest. He stopped playing outside and gained weight.
The virtual world had won over the real one.
Jaun spends eight hours playing video games
Gaming is one of the most profitable and fast changing industries in the IT sector. Games are continuously updated to add more features. The storylines are fascinating, the game lay out is attractive and the levels never seem to end. This last feature is what makes people open their cell phone again and again; they have to finish the level they are stuck at.
Nearly 2.5 billion (roughly 1 in every 3 people) play some sort of free-to-play game like Fortnite or DOTA 2 or Grand Theft Auto (GTA), a recent research revealed.
From war games to car thefts, many of these games include graphic acts of violence. And many of these games are being played by children.
How many times have you heard and ignored the sentence “Playing too many video games will weaken your eyesight”? Even though it won’t really make you go blind, obsessive video gaming can cause addiction and is now officially recognized as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr Amna Abid, a psychiatrist, says that video games can lead to an increase in aggressive behavior. “Children are more likely to learn aggression and fighting as most of the games contain violence,” Dr Amna added.
“Exposure to violent games may be the cause of more aggression and stress while gaming addiction can increase depression and anxiety levels”.
Additionally, physically inactive children are more vulnerable to different diseases as their immunity is weakened, Dr Amna said.
Video games may also have bad effects on some children’s health, including obesity, video-induced seizures, and postural, muscular and skeletal disorders, such as tendonitis, nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome.
Sometimes, the consequences get worse.
On 5 February, 11 year old Fahad Fayaz’s cousins climbed the stairs to his room in the upper portion of a house in Model Town, Lahore. They wished to play with the gaming enthusiast, who had been playing Fortnite, an online game, since he had come home from school.
Inside the room, they found Fahad unconscious, game controller still in his hand. He was declared dead at the hospital, lost to a cardiac attack caused by stress brought on by gaming consoles.
“Whether the children have a healthy heart or a weak one, anyone is likely to have a stroke in such stressed situation”, Doctor Shahid, a general physician said. “The violent content of such games can raise the children’s blood pressure level, leading to stroke”, the doctor added.
“Problems related to excessive video game-playing can range from increased heart rate, obesity, physical strain on the hands, back, and neck, eyesight problems including eyestrain and various types of nausea”, the doctor warned.The doctor also revealed that playing violent video games may actually harm the brain.
But do parents understand these risks?
Saira, at least, is aware of the repercussions of her son’s addiction. “I am greatly concerned about how my son is being brought up in this digital age specially in the era of ‘Video Gaming’ that can keep your loved ones busy in the virtual world for an indefinite period”. Jaun spends an average of eight to nine hours playing video games daily.
Fahad Fayaz’s death has left Saira in fear for her own son’s health. She thinks he has changed both physically and mentally.
“He is always looking at the game screen. Even if his father calls out to him, he does not pay heed,”…..Saira trails off, her voice resigned in despair.
So what is a parent in such a predicament supposed to do?
Doctor Shahid advises parents to monitor what games their children are playing. He insists that violent and age inappropriate games must be stopped immediately. He also recommends that parents try and play video games with their child can to get an insight into what types of games the child is playing. “Set reasonable limits on screen time, even when the games are non-violent,” he advises.
Perhaps the solution is to distract from one type of game to another. Providing ample opportunities for the child to leave the house and venture out may be enough to gradually wean him off the game console or cell phone.
Dr. Shahid insists that “Taking children out is one of the best things you can do for your children’s physical growth and health.”
Works at GNN for Web page