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Young gameaholics?
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 06 - 2019

Many children use their parents' mobile phones to play games, with the latter sometimes being more than glad to lend their mobiles as the games can keep their children occupied. But not all parents may know what type of games their children are playing, leading to potentially dangerous effects.
In the same way that there are beneficial or educational games for children to play on mobile phones, there are also others that may feature harmful activities. These could include Momo Challenge and Blue Whale, a game in which a player is given tasks or challenges that may in extreme cases be life-threatening.
Some 130 children have committed suicide after playing one game in Russia, and this had led countries such as Brazil to promote positive games like Baleia Rosa (Pink Whale) instead. This game features positive tasks that value life and combat depression.
Even if the dangers of playing games on phones are not usually so extreme, some children may nevertheless spend hours playing games on phones and becoming addicted to them. Maysara Yasser, for example, a secondary school student in Cairo, spends hours playing games like Pubg and Dream League on her phone, both of which relate to football.
“Everyone plays games like Pubg, and I play them on my mobile and my laptop as well,” she said, adding that she also likes car games. A game like Dream League can take up endless hours since it has many matches that trigger the sense of competition. It can also be played offline.
“I fill up my time with playing until the teacher enters the classroom. Then I turn my mobile off during the lesson and switch it on again on my way home,” Yasser added. “I think that because games like Pubg are very challenging, millions of people play them and don't get bored of them.”
“I have heard of Blue Whale and the other challenge games, but I don't like them. If I had, I would have tried them for sure. I play games that suit my other hobbies like football,” she said, adding that she is also planning to buy a home Play Station to play more games.
Hamza Mohamed is an elementary school pupil in Cairo who is also obsessed with playing mobile-phone games. “I play many games since I have them on my mobile phone and laptop. I don't know all their names, but I play them whenever I am going out with my mother or when I am at home,” he said, claiming that he does not play games at school.
“I like these games because they have something entertaining in them. I have never heard of the challenge games, but I would like to try them because I want to know what these games are about,” Mohamed added.
According to psychologist Ali Suleiman, the desire to play such games may have to do with a need to test limits and barriers. “A person who has no barriers in life has no activities, so the result is that he has nothing to do and feels bored. This can lead him to play dangerous games, if only because he cannot find any other way of using his energy,” he said, adding that the real challenge was to find more productive ways of using this energy in the real world.
Children in particular may experience barriers, and these may lead them to play mobile games. “They want to exert their efforts, but some of them may not have the ability to learn properly and they find something trivial like games to make themselves busy instead,” Suleiman said. “They may even want to escape from studying through games, and since they are sometimes very young, they may not be able to differentiate right from wrong.”
“The danger then is that their game-playing turns into an addiction, and a child may be unable to stop playing games, doing so almost involuntarily,” Suleiman said. “And when this happens, he may not have the time for anything else, including education.”
“We are a nation that supports reading. But if a child plays too many games, he will end up uneducated and will only be able to deal with immediate gratifications like in games. In the worst cases, he will not be creative since he doesn't read, and he will not have ambitions because he lives through games.”
Suleiman said that some countries had decided to block some Internet sites offering games in the interests of public health as a result. However, this had run into opposition from advertisers in many cases, even if leaving such sites freely accessible could lead to a country “losing its youth”.
“So, if we want to have educated young people, the state must help by blocking negative content on the Internet and encouraging reading,” he added. “Families alone cannot always manage, and other countries, among them Saudi Arabia, have acted to filter harmful content. This does not only have to do with games, but also involves some TV programmes, films, and serials.”
“Parents do not necessarily have to hide their mobile phones from children. But they should filter out negative content and encourage children to use the technology more productively in their studies,” he said.
He added that he had advice he often passed on to parents worried about their children's activities on the Internet. “If the child is daydreaming, not focusing on his lessons, and if he wants to sit alone with a mobile phone, then he could have the symptoms of withdrawal from society,” he said.
“It is at this point that the parents should intervene to make sure that the child is not addicted to playing games on the Internet, especially dangerous ones,” he added.

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