Are you sure your kid is learning and not gaming?

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By Dr Sundar C Ingaleshwar, Consultant, Pediatric intensivist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)

The pandemic has changed the entire learning scenario for students. Many schools are conducting online classes. This has increased their dependency on the electronic gadgets like desktops, tabs, laptops and smartphones. More exposure to electronic devices and lack of offline classes has restricted them to stay at home impacting their physical as well as psychological health. Due to the regular use of gadgets kids are resorting to playing games on these platforms so much so as to cause an addiction.

Since the start of the pandemic, schools have preferred online mode of teaching. This has increased their usage of smart phones and laptops in the past 18 months. The accessibility to such gadgets very often have increased the curiosity among children about online games. Many parents have already started to feel that their children are addicted to the online games and they are finding it difficult to wean them off it. Parents are seeking professionals help to inculcate good habits among children.

It is a common scenario in households these days that a child throws tantrums or is angered whenever the parents ask him/her to stop playing games on mobile or computers. There is a huge behavioral change observed by many parents since the start of online classes. While most children argue that they play for a short period as they cannot step out of the house, others are resorting to tantrums like throwing things, shutting doors etc.

Playing video games on phones or computers is one of the most common recreational activity for both children as well as adults. This holds true until it is used judiciously and for a short time. When the child exceeds the time and gets glued to these gadgets it can lead to several problems.

When to worry?

  • If your child has reduced social interactions like speaking to parents and siblings or even friends
  • The child’s academic performance is affected due to the games and the child is not interested in studies
  • The child only talks about games all the time
  • The child does not enjoy any of the outdoor activity or outdoor games and prefers to stay at home all the time
  • The child does not follow any time frame while playing and taking away the phone or computer leads to fight or tantrums at home

The addiction to online games has impacted the mental health as well as physical health of children. Many children are complaining about headache, body pain, eye related problems, lack of sleep etc. As many children hide from their parents and play at night they may suffer from sleep deprivation. Also, sitting in one place for long time and playing will lead to physical inactivity resulting in obesity and other problems.

Tips to keep the children away from the addiction of online games

Sometimes parents might get busy with their work and to engage their children, they might resort to smart phones. This may increase kids addiction to online games or social media. Therefore, both parents and children have to be cautious while using gadgets.

  • Avoid using phone in front of your children frequently
  • Spend time with your children, speak to them often and know how they feel
  • Let them play outdoor games whenever possible. Otherwise engage them in activities like Sudoku, DIY etc.
  • Encouraging them for indoor/outdoor physical activity will keep them fit
  • Encourage them to read books
  • Check the smart phones used by kids and monitor the apps
  • Maintain a time frame to play video games
  • If your child insists to play on playing for longer duration, engage them in other hobbies like drawing, gardening etc

Games are fun to play. But can be detrimental to mental health if played for longer duration. Therefore, parents need to be cautious and monitor their child accordingly.