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Tuesday 11 December 2018
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Commentary

The computer games disorder

‘I certainly believe that computer or electronic games contribute to teenagers’ and children’s poor manners and communication and relationship skills’

JEAN ANTOINE-DUNNE

THE WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) has listed addiction to video games as a “mental health condition” in the latest draft of its International Classification of Diseases. Not surprisingly, this has generated controversy. The gaming industry has condemned the research leading up to this categorisation as “deeply flawed.”

Some experts say that “there is a lack of rigorous research to back up the claim of mental disorder.” Others have, however, pointed out that the listing speaks to the degree or level of obsession.

According to one psychotherapist, there is a profound difference between someone who has a “passion” for gaming and someone who lives only to game. The difference, according to these experts and WHO, is in the balance between how much of a life is consumed by gaming and how much time is left for ordinary work, play and relationships.

Most carers and parents will worry about the implications of any such categorisation for their children, given that many children spend much of their time hovering over screens or are pinned to some form of mobile equipment for much of the time.

So are they potential addicts? There are many who are, shall we say, “passionate” about games on the screen. There will certainly be concern as parents seek to figure out the extent of their child or teenager’s level of dependence on video games and any possible impairment in their relationships and day-to-day functioning. The problem is not, of course, confined to the young.

But as the generations become increasingly “tech savvy” the issues surrounding computer dependence will multiply. I for one am tired of sitting with ten-year-olds, or even children as young as five, who persist in playing games on their little iPods and tablets, regardless of the company.

I am loth to say to them “have some manners. I am here. Do not ignore my presence.” But given that the sound of a voice has long since become a bother for the young generation, I would be better off sending a text: “pls spk 2 me so that I cn c that u r not a robot.”

The question remains: can we even begin to understand the fascination that we all increasingly share of staring at moving objects on a screen? I certainly believe that computer or electronic games contribute to teenagers’ and children’s poor manners and communication and relationship skills. But how does one negotiate the abyss? Should one place a prohibition on video gaming, and is this a legitimate response and, anyway, is it even possible?

The media have been quick to bring on experts on how to protect your child from falling prey to this new disease.

Never say “no,” outright, was one piece of proffered wisdom. Rather, the parent should create a set of questions that would give the child a logical limit. In other words, the parent should negotiate how much time is spent on the computer or video game. Have you done your homework? Have you spent half an hour today with your friends? Have you done your chores?

The child must be taught to develop an understanding that games are only there to be played after more serious pastimes, such as playing outside, household chores and homework and, oh yes, human contact.

But the logic of gaming compulsion escapes me. Research into the reasons why both young and old are hooked on what for some of us is senseless activity would be welcome. Experts say the new designation of mental disorder should lead to one positive outcome: it will generate new research into the compulsion to play computer games.

The extent of the increasing attraction of computer games can be seen in the fact that several animators are moving to the more lucrative business of designing digital gaming programmes. Obviously they are following the money.

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