Getting children off the hook: When the obsession with mobiles and games claims lives
Kochi: Two back-to-back incidents in which obsession with online gaming claimed the lives of two students have sent shockwaves across Kerala. However, there are many more similar incidents that sound stranger than fiction. Though they have not claimed lives, they indicate that it is high time for addressing the issue.
Recently, a 15-year-old boy who was scolded by her mother for playing mobile games absconded from home and was later found in Tamil Nadu. In another incident, a 14-year-old boy attempted suicide as his parents restricted him from using the mobile phone. Similarly, a 12-year-old boy was found pleading to others on road to give him Rs 10 each, supposedly to play an online game. The list goes on.
According to mental health experts and academicians, there is an increasing trend of screen and game obsession among students. “In around 750 students we interact with, 50 have problems associated with online addiction,” says Mathitha Vipinachandran, psycho-social school councillor under Kerala government’s Women and Child Development Department. She pointed out that when children in the age group of 14 to 18 are restricted from using mobile phones and playing games, they rebel. “Among them, younger ones are facing issues like stress and lack of attention,” she added.
Childline Nodal Coordinator Arun Thankachan revealed that more than half of the complaints received through Childline pertains to internet use.
According to C M Azeem, Coordinator of Career Guidance & Adolescent Counselling Cell, the education department is planning to resume the ‘Sajjam’ campaign which was started to sensitize about cyber traps and problems related to online games. “There are plans to resume the campaign soon which was stopped in the wake of examinations,” he said.
Common problems faced by children due to mobile, game, computer and online addiction are:
- Disinterest in attending class
- Lack of attention
- Lack of interaction
Possible mitigation measures
- Try to avoid screen use among children in the age group of two to five. If it is necessary, ensure they are allowed to use in the presence of adults
- Give necessary guidelines to children in the age group of five to 18 after discussing with them to know their needs
- Use parental control software to ensure safe browsing
- Place computers and laptops in common rooms