Dubai: The issue of online gaming addiction and its impact on children’s mental health was at the forefront during the “Dubai Police Service Public Forum on Online Gaming” on Monday.
To counter the problem of gambling addiction, educational psychologist Dr Nadia Buhannad urged parents to nip it in the bud and also called for a more balanced perspective including using video game as a method of learning.
Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the forum, the mental health expert said many families suffered from online gaming or social media addiction in both children and adults.
Games in the course?
Dr Buhannad called for the inclusion of video games in school curricula, citing that it could be a good idea to use gaming platforms for children to learn their lessons. “If that’s what they like, why not use it for good?”
Pointing out that the game also has its benefits for sharpening user skills, she said, “We’re not saying it’s totally bad. But the time spent playing is what matters. They should not be abused… We know that they are good at developing children’s imagination and improving their awareness and certain skills. So why can’t we include them in education, especially science and math? »
She cited the result of a study carried out in Ramallah, Palestine, which found that video games in the science curriculum were effective learning tools. “Boys and girls were all excited to learn this way,” she said.
Young people who know how to develop games should help make them suitable for inclusion in the program, she added.
Dr. Buhannad pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified gaming disorder or video game addiction as a mental health condition.
Yet online gaming addiction had peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic. She cited a survey by a German database company that polled 45,650 people over the age of 18 in 39 countries between April 2021 and March 2022 to top the global adult gamer survey.
Dr Buhannad highlighted the need for studies to analyze the pattern of play and time spent by children under 18. In her experience, she said some of her teenage patients spend 10-12 hours online, playing games and social media. According to her, five to seven hours a week can be allowed for online gaming.
“Problems arise when they sit for long hours every day, engrossed in games. Parents should limit the hours children spend on online games and encourage them to have social activities or play sports or to pursue hobbies that contribute to mental well-being Parents should be role models and raise their children to be emotionally intelligent.
She also warned of the dangers for children addicted to online games to fall victim to cybercriminals. “It could be a terrorist or a pedophile playing online with your child. There have been many examples around the world of how these people influence children using various methods. Children can also be sexually exploited. They need to be warned and informed about such things,” the expert added.
Intimidation and fraud
Acts of cyberbullying and incitement to violence and terrorism through video games are not myths, but a reality, said other experts who spoke at the forum.
Col. Saeed Al Hajri, director of the Dubai Police Cybercrime Department, said Dubai Police had recorded 26 cases of cyberbullying and 21 cases of financial fraud through video games over the past three years. “These cases are fewer here than in some other countries,” he said, attributing this to the high level of surveillance carried out by security agencies and game developers.
He said the UAE had strong laws to penalize cybercriminals and that working with online game developers, schools and families was the way forward to ensure children are safe from threats in cyberspace. “Families should be naturally supportive and schools should also be educational.”
Col Al Hajri also supported the use of video games for educational purposes. “These games are to be used for educational purposes and also for telling stories and other positive things,” he told Gulf News.
Dr Noah Raford, Head of Global Affairs at the Dubai Future Foundation, gave concrete but isolated examples from different countries of how online games have been misused by criminals to incite violence.
Emphasizing that video games have become the social media of today and will remain the social media of tomorrow, he said, “Just as dangerous people have used social media over the past two decades to spread their ideas of fear , intolerance and hatred, so will people use games to do the same thing.
While the vast majority of games are used for entertainment purposes, some games are used to recruit followers into racist groups and there are games that help mass shooters snooze, he said citing a few examples.
“DIY games have been misused to spread dissension, fear, anxiety and division,” he said, stressing the importance of knowing how games work and how they are misused.
“Once we understand how it works, we can fix the problems. If you’re a parent, talk to your kids, learn what kind of games they like, and play with them.
He said private and government organizations should also explore the use of games for good.
“Technology is a tool. Video games and the metaverse are just one tool. It is really up to us whether we want to let the forces of fear and anxiety use this tool to shape our future or whether we want to create a future that is healing, full of hope and full of optimism to create a better world for himself. ”
It was after realizing how video games and the metaverse can have a positive impact on society that the government of Dubai launched a metaverse strategy that will not only have extraordinary potential economic benefits, in terms of adding billions of dirhams to the economy and the creation of new jobs, but also social opportunities, added Dr. Noah.
Secure user experience
Dr. Marwan Alzarouni, CEO of Dubai Blockchain Centre, spoke about the role of governments and lawmakers in improving a safe user experience in the metaverse. He highlighted the importance of working with technology vendors, standards bodies, and universities to create an ideal metaverse ecosystem.
During his session, he also screened videos showing how video games and the metaverse can be used in a positive way. They included a video about the UAE’s Everdome, a Binance smart chain-based metaverse that plans to establish a thriving science-based colony on Mars.
Al Ameen Service’s first-of-its-kind forum also included sessions from metaverse and gaming big names such as Herve Larren, founder and CEO of metaverse company Airvey.io and Luca Lamberti, CEO of 99Starz, which offers an ecosystem blockchain game. .
Did you know?
• Video games generate between 200 and 250 billion dollars in revenue each year.
• Video games have become the most dominant form of entertainment in the world.
• The video game industry is more than three times larger than the global film and music industries combined.
• Top streamers on Twitch (a video game live-streaming platform) already get twice as many views each year as top Hollywood movies.
• Billions of hours are spent every day by 3.2 billion people who regularly play games.
• People spend twice as much time watching and playing video games than using all other forms of social media combined.
Source: Presentation by Dr Noah Raford, Head of Global Affairs at Dubai Future Foundation