Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health (DoH) issued a recommendation for parents to limit their children’s gaming hours to up to two hours per day under supervision, provided the gaming content is educational and interactive.
As recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics, children under the age of two, said the DoH, should not have any screen time, as overexposure to screens may harm the child’s physical and mental development.
According to some research ‘the average US household owns at least one dedicated game console, PC or smartphone.’
Mobile is becoming a critical part of the game industry; 63 per cent of children aged two to 17 use mobile devices to play.
Results of the 2015 Global School-based Student Health Survey showed that around 56pc of school students aged 13 to 15 spend more than three hours a day playing video games or watching television, whereas the percentage reaches close to 63pc with children aged 16 to 17 years.
“In an era of ubiquitous technology that surrounds our lives whether at home or at school, children have become especially more engrossed in using technology nowadays that it has become almost impossible to unplug completely. However, it is essential to find the right balance between children’s use of technologies, especially long and excessive hours of gaming, and more healthy and active pursuits,” says Dr Jamal Al Mutawa Al Naqbi, manager of community health and surveillance department at DoH.
He says despite the few positive effects associated with gaming such as strategic thinking and problem solving, their negative consequences far outweigh them.
In December 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it was planning to include Gaming Disorder (GD) in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases. This followed the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to include Internet Gaming Disorder in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013.
According to the WHO, an individual with GD is a person who lets playing video games ‘take precedence over other life interests and daily activities,’ resulting in ‘negative consequences’ such as ‘significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.’
We as parents are role models who set an example for children to develop better habits. At the end of the day we are responsible for limiting the hours our children spend using video games and encouraging them to engage in social and sports activities that nurture their mental and physical well-being. A recent incident saw a young boy being rushed to hospital after developing serious addiction to a particular game.
Another case saw a child become suicidal and develop anger issues, after spending hours at a time gaming.
It has also been reported that children who are addicted to video games are more prone to stress, which directly impacts their organs, such as eye strain resulting from prolonged exposure to bright television or computer screens, which causes the eye to produce less moisture.
Despite ongoing studies on the influence of the excessive use of video games on children’s psychological health, the Abu Dhabi DoH believes that these children can suffer behavioural, psychological and social disorders such as isolation, social anxiety, general anxiety, depression and poor academic performance as a result.