A 16-year-old Hyderabad boy lost around Rs 36 lacs on mobile phone games. In another case, a Chinese woman’s daughter spent Rs 52 lacs on mobile games, leaving only Rs 5 in her bank account.A quick search on Google will throw up many such results of children stealthily spending their parents money on mobile games (or demanding for it). But what is it about mobile game addiction that numbs sensibilities? Talking about mobile games addiction, mental wellness expertDr Rachna K Singh explains, “Screen addiction is a struggle these days for adults and children alike. However the detrimental impact of unchecked usage can bear serious consequences for children as their minds are still developing. Screen usage can hamper children’s cognitive development, poor sleep hygiene, lower grades and poor social skills.”Dr Dinika Anand, Visiting Consultant, Clinical Psychologist, BLK Max Super Speciality Hospital adds, “The prevalence of addiction to mobile phones, video games, and mobile gaming is undeniably increasing in India. This rise in addiction is evident in various aspects, such as the trend of doom scrolling or bedtime procrastination, where individuals spend excessive time on platforms like Instagram and other social media networks. There has been a noticeable surge in the number of people experiencing addiction or excessive usage syndromes related to mobile phones, gaming, and video games.”
Mobile phone games are fast paced and full of fantasy and engaging animation. This gets the child addicted in a manner that he fails to feel satisfied from anything unless it offers the level of euphoria that the game does.
Dr Dinika further talks about the limited availability of data on this issue in India, and the need for further investigation to gain a deeper understanding of the problem. “Nevertheless, in clinical practice, professionals frequently encounter reports from parents concerning their children’s addiction to digital devices, particularly among school-going kids. This issue has become even more prevalent after the COVID-19 pandemic, as children were compelled to rely heavily on digital devices for education and entertainment purposes due to the shift to online platforms. This reliance on digital devices for various aspects of life, including schoolwork, relaxation, and social interactions, has contributed to the exacerbation of the problem.”
Importance of monitoring screen time in kids
While addiction is something that has to be medically diagnosed, kids spending excessive amounts of time on the couch playing on the mobile phone, thereby becoming sedentary and preferring to stay indoors than socializing is definitely a problem that needs attention. They might end up neglecting their homework or important chores and most importantly forget the ability to entertain themselves. Not to forget the effect it has on one’s eyesight.
“This makes it important for parents to monitor not only their duration of time but also the content of what their children are consuming. Age-appropriate content should be allowed along with ensuring that it is not overstimulating for children. Another aspect to be mindful of is to have fixed hours of screen time in the day ideally not more than 2 hours. Learning based content should be prioritized and violent content must be avoided. Many parents use screens to distract their children during meals; this can be very detrimental in the long run. Meals should be kept screen-free. Instead of interacting with strangers children can be encouraged to speak to their peers and do activities with them online which increase team building and social skills. Moreover parents themselves should set the example that their children can follow,” suggests Dr Rachna.
When a child becomes consumed by gaming, their social, emotional, and cognitive skills can gradually deteriorate. Despite any educational or learning components a game may possess, excessive usage can be detrimental.
Warning signs of screen addiction
Imbalance in time spent on gaming
Constant fixation on the game
Neglect of personal care tasks
Staying up late
Prioritizing gaming over other responsibilities
“Practice what you preach”
Addressing gaming addiction and excessive usage requires intervention before it escalates into a serious problem. Establishing screen time limits and collaboratively setting rules can be beneficial. Encouraging open discussions with the child to understand their reasons for wanting more screen time and finding alternative ways to meet their social needs are essential steps.
Modeling healthy screen habits is crucial, as excessive screen time affects adults as well. Striving for balance in one’s own life is important, not just for the sake of the child, but for personal well-being. Additionally, implementing strategies to fulfill the child’s needs outside of screen time, gradually reducing gaming, and engaging in activities such as playdates and family game nights can help redirect their focus. It is important to acknowledge the rising prevalence of internet and gaming addiction among the digital generation and adopt a mindful approach in curating our relationship with digital devices. While games can be educational and beneficial, it is vital to establish boundaries and recognize that they are not the sole focus of a child’s development, concludes Dr Dinika.