Online gaming addiction has become a serious concern among parents due to Covid – 19 curbs and virtual education during pandemic. With the booming digital revolution the online gaming industry in India attracts a large segment of kids’ users. According to a report in 2019, 38 % of school – goers (15 yrs or below) have access to the Internet in India. Also, last year according to IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India) an estimated 66 million children aged between 5 – 11 years constitute about 15% of India’s active online user base.
The restrictions on community leisure activities due to social distancing norms have considerably increased the screen time for both children and adults. Online learning and WFH (Work From Home) has become the new normal which in turn, has enhanced internet dependency among Indian users. It therefore, becomes imperative for parents to monitor and supervise their kids both during e – learning as well as online gaming.
Social Media Matters has launched Wranga Digital Parenting workshops designed to teach parents and caregivers to confidently navigate the web with their kids. SMM has conducted many online workshops on digital parenting and online gaming safety. In order to cope up with digital disruptions parents or guardians must know about internet safety and privacy control measures. Tweens and teens have access to smartphones and tablets as physical activities have been confined in the present scenario.
Digital parenting experts have suggested that parents should be involved with their kids both during online classes or playing online games together. It is important to refrain from too much screen time which may lead to addiction among kids. Parents should have more open interactions with children on the kinds of online games they prefer in order to guide and teach them cyber etiquettes. However, longer durations of online activities have also led to anxiety and mental health issues among kids. A recent order by the Union government on banning 118 Chinese mobile apps, including popular gaming titles have revealed new findings on children's internet habits. A recent survey on online gaming found, “73% parents mentioned that their children prefer playing shooting and adventure games. 45% expressed difficulty in controlling their children's gadget usage.” Children get hooked to online games because of the psychological gratification which becomes an addictive stimulus.
Since, young minds are vulnerable to technological innovations be it educational or recreational online games. It is essential to encourage children to engage in other fun activities like painting, sketching, essays writing on their hobbies, etc. Apart from that families need to get together and spend some time playing indoor games such as ludo, snakes & ladder, carom, cards or chess. This could be helpful in reducing the screen time both for kids and parents. Also, it would give alternate pass times to children other than smartphones and tablets. Parents can motivate their children by leading through example for their physical well being in order to have a relaxed and healthy mindset. Yoga and meditation could be stress busters for families during these challenging times.
As a matter of fact we cannot restrict children or force them to stop playing online games. The SMM team in most of its workshops stresses upon digital parenting that adapts to the changing times. Parents need to be more digitally aware and be patient and sensitive towards young minds. Kids have a lot of creative potential which is reflected in their ability to learn technology and play online games with much ease than their parents. But it is equally important for parents to step in and channelize the knowledge of their children in a positive direction.
Rayyan Yunus, Research & Training Associate at SMM said, "There is no doubt that video games and their habits certainly lead to mood swings during or after playing or becoming hyper focused but there are upsides, too. Games like Minecraft, Ark, and The Sims can increase visual-spatial skills, this can lead to a better understanding of distance and space. Some video games like Sudoku, Chess and Wordament can improve planning, organization and flexible thinking.” He further added, “The most important aspect of today's gaming is video games careers, Just as professional sports, there is a field known as E-sports. All that is required is to understand the balance between digital and social life through digital parenting".