The boom in e-sports is worsening an already severe situation, but what’s a parent to do?
Deep concern dominated a recent forum on how Thai society should navigate the double-edged sword involving the increasing popularity of e-sports. The key question remains the same – what is the middle way? No one has yet managed to find a clear-cut answer.
Millions of Thai children are at risk, said participants in the forum marking Mental Health Week. The digital world is evolving rapidly, making parental control increasingly difficult, they said. Worse still, many parents play computer games themselves, setting an example that can be hazardous for their kids both in the short and long term.
Participants advocated three “No” measures: No games during “quality” family time, like during meals; no game playing by adults in front of children; and no games in the bedroom. In today’s world, where everyone seems to be looking downward at their mobile devices, even at the dinner table, none of these measures will be easy to implement.
The arrival of e-sports has greatly complicated the situation. There is serious talk about making them an Olympic event, and Thailand’s sports authorities obviously do not want to miss that bandwagon. Concerned parties have been asking the Sports Authority of Thailand to weigh the pros against all the cons, but there are parents who somewhat misunderstand that every game-playing kid is a potential computer genius waiting for opportunities to demonstrate his talent.
Success in e-sports can bring families sizeable fortunes, but it must be apparent that actual physical sports can benefit children more. The problem is that there are parents who believe that, if their kids can’t beat others in the pool or on the tennis court, having them try their hand at computer games is a reasonable alternative.
A recent global survey found that gaming addiction has become grave among lower-income families, whose children try to compensate the lack of family warmth with whatever is at their fingertips. They avoid school bullying and the contempt of classmates by seeking to live in a world of their own. They are likely to remain anti-social loners in adulthood and possibly even take the wayward path towards criminality.
At the Thai forum, it was claimed that hundreds of thousands of Thai children, including a phenomenal number of girls, are at risk of becoming addicted to computer or online games, and tens of thousands can already be classified as addicts. With the unstoppable and dizzying evolution of the online world, some participants voiced concern that Thailand could be fighting a losing battle.
Everyone agreed that a problem that was serious before has become much more worrisome now. The most optimistic among them said the country “cannot build a brick wall to block the winds of change” and “instead should create windmills to make the best use of it”. Again, no one really knows what might be required to build such windmills.
One way to determine whether addiction is setting in is to gauge disruptions to normal daily life – in sleeping, homework, eating regular meals and such. Addicts shun social contact, as well, and might become angry when told to shut down their screens.
With the gaming industry growing fast and churning out fresh attractions daily, sports authorities tempted by potential Olympic glory and family situations encouraging children to play games, Thailand has its work cut out offsetting the damage caused. The problem will only get worse until the government, schools and parents make a concerted effort to tackle it.