A ban on online gaming will help neither the child nor the parents
The Union Government wants parents and teachers to look for “gaming disorders” among children. The prompt for such an advisory comes as schools reopen in the country after close to 18 months on account of COVID-19. The Government is worried that children have become addicted to mobile phones and online gaming during this period. The advisory says gaming without restriction and self-limits leads to addiction and disorders. Symptoms of addiction, the advisory tells us, are “unusually secretive behaviour” like changing screens when parents approach children, falling grades and changing social behaviour. It wants parents and teachers to tell children to also maintain safety precautions like not revealing their names, using screen names, not clicking on links and images from unknown sites and not communicating with strangers. Excessive liberalism and political correctness may find fault with the advisory as being intrusive and imposing the Government’s sense of morality on children. The conservatives, on the other hand, will welcome the move and probably ask for a ban on online gaming. The truth lies somewhere in between. If parents gift an expensive mobile phone to their child, the latter will play games on it and the parents surely know that. The parents have two choices: One, to let the child play without any limits, and two, to teach the child to play responsibly.
The media has reported the fallout in both cases — some children stealing money to play online games while some inflicted self-harm or attempted suicide when kept away from playing. A ban, just like unchecked freedom to play, will help neither the child nor the parents and instead impact their relationship. However, the Government advisory takes the issue out of the personal world of parents and their children and into the public domain. To what extent is the exercise prudent and whether the advisory could have been conveyed to the parents in a more personal setting is something for the society to debate. One thing is clear, that any action of the State, once initiated, will reach its logical end. Where the gaming advisory will eventually lead to is anybody’s guess. For now, there is the recent example of China which decided in July that it will not allow children to become addicted to online games. Instead of an advisory, the Chinese Government brought out an executive order, telling children under 18 that they are now allowed to play for just three hours a week. They can access games for an hour each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Interestingly, while the Indian advisory recommends children using screen names, the Chinese rules ask the gaming companies to make sure that players use their real names to sign on and prevent those who use fictitious names. There is also a limit to what the children can spend on micro-transactions. And the Government has begun to go slow on approving new online games. The right to privacy or prudence is the question.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)