Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
        Volume 10 |Issue 10| March 11, 2011 |


 Cover Story
 Special Feature
 Food for Thought
 Book Review
 Star Diary
 Write to Mita

   SWM Home


Living, Virtually

Farhana Urmee

Gaming for hours overworks some specific organs, especially fingers, which can create an imbalance in the whole body function. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Hamim, preparing for his O levels, hardly gets time for anything else other than going to tutors and studying. The lifestyle that his parents have set for him hardly ever gets in the way of his study hours. Above all he gets all the support from his parents and tutors to prepare for the upcoming examination.

Hamim, himself being a disciplined and studious boy, does not seem very interested in outdoor activities, hanging out with friends or attending family get-togethers. He studies for hours and often takes a break for himself just by turning on his personal computer and switching to the latest video game. His parents are not really concerned about his growing habit to play with screen, as they see it as Hamim's way of taking a break.

Video games, the most favourite pastime of today's youngsters often does not remain as a mere hobby. According to experts, it can turn to a serious addiction and also can appear as an obstacle to children's social communication, an issue of conflict between children and parents, observe experts.

Dhaka University (DU) Psychology teacher Akib Ul Huque says that playing video games often can hinder children's normal growth as it confines children in a room where they communicate only with a screen. "Apparently it might seem that children and adolescents are paying a proportional time in playing video games in comparison to the total study hours and other activities" says Huque. "But generally the alluring graphics, up-to-date strategies and appealing music of particular video games keep their mind occupied, which induces them to play it repeatedly. And playing these screen based video games hinders their usual process of mental and physical growth and well being as well."

When children grow up, their socialisation process determines what their activities will be and how they will perform as adults. How much time a child gives for doing different activities everyday affects his/her behaviour. This constitutes one of the learning methods of children whereby they learn through experience. Video games often cause children to experience life artificially by going through different levels of game, embedded with high definition graphics and music and planning to win all the time. Thus the experience (in video games) of killing people, fighting with other characters, being rewarded or punished with every move and remaining constantly alert while gaming might have an adverse effect on their behaviour in childhood or even after growing up, thinks Huque who teaches Developmental Psychology.

The importance of physical exercise and outdoor games for the proper growth of children is indisputable. Psychologist Maleka Parvin says, games involving physical movement teach children to know their own body and mind. “While playing such games children laugh or cry being moved by the experience of actual life rather than virtual stimulation, they get to learn when to be happy or when to agonise. Again, activities like running, jumping and screaming (spontaneous expressions of children) allow them to know their own body - how much they can move their muscle, how long they can continue playing and when do they get tired,” she says adding that playing video games would deprive them from experiencing such expressions of childhood.

Sitting in front of the screen for a long time and not doing physical activities is nor healthy. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Sitting in front of the screen for a long time, moreover, and not doing physical activities is not healthy. Constant looking at the monitor and TV screen can harm their eyes and will make over exercise their brain, observes Dr Asif Mujtaba Mahmud, Associate Professor, Respiratory Medicine, Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR). Gaming on a desktop computer by sitting for hours can create spinal problems and can also overwork some specific organs. For example, fingers, which can bring an imbalance in the whole body function. Again, constant confinement in a room might make children's body vulnerable to different kind of allergies. Dr Mahmud also identifies some long term effects such as lower physical activity making children vulnerable to chronic diseases and obesity. Playing video games constantly also stresses out children which often causes diseases like hyper tension, diabetes in early childhood or upcoming adulthood, observes Dr Mahmud.

Besides all the inappropriate learning process and physical problems, video games, isolate children from their families, holding them back from making friends and above all blocking their communication skills. According to DU teacher Maleka Parvin, as today's youngsters are not going out and playing with peers, they don't learn how to make friends and how to talk to people. Again, often it can provoke a kind of family conflict as these children may continue to play video games despite parental disapproval.

Regarding parental guidance Akib Ul Huque says, children need role models during their socialisation process and that is usually their parents, teachers and often peers. When they are told not to play with those who were previously considered role models, children tend to be resentful. They start to dislike those role models, which might have a huge impact on their growing up.

Research worldwide has shown that there is a link between children's aggressive behaviour and playing violent video games. The constant exposure to blood and gore in video games may desensitise children towards violence. Again, heroes are often the ones carrying out violent acts which go unpunished and are often rewarded for killing other characters in the games. “Playing such games might have an impact on children's values and motivation as a human being”, adds Huque.

Saying that playing video games is not all bad Huque observes, “video games can increase children's computer literacy, enhance IQ level depending on the categories of the games they are playing. There must be strict parental guidance regarding the amount of time spent playing video games. And the parents and teachers can arrange some outdoor games involving physical activity to balance out the probable negative impact of video games.”

Educationist and litterateur Professor Syed Manzurool Islam says, children's over exposure to video games other than doing physical activities, reading books and interacting with people is likely to bring a wrong attitude towards life. Professor Islam says “In games, as every stage is well designed, to children life might seem so ordered as they see it on screen. But when it’s time to face reality, their experience of getting things well-planned and all-under-order and their practice of becoming winners for all time will not let them understand the real life.” As children do not interact with real people they may become too self absorbed. By 'killing' other people in games to win, they may eventually lose respect for human beings and for the real society. Their virtual adventure often makes them bitter towards the reality, observes Professor Islam.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2010