We often hear stories of crimes committed by those who have become addicted to internet games, stories that are even difficult to put into words. A priest writing as a guest columnist in the Catholic Times expresses his opinion concerning the movement to shut down the games in order to deal with the addiction.
He believes the problem is not primarily with the addiction but rather with family circumstances that do not allow for proper care of the children. He mentions a case in which a middle school child killed his mother and then, regretting his action, killed himself. Here was a widowed mother who had to work to maintain the family and wasn't able to look after the child. Effort should be directed, he feels, toward finding ways to support these families and to fund studies to determine the causes of internet addiction.
Different groups in society are pushing for implementing the goals of 'Game Shut Down', the words used for the movement. The intention is to block the reception of the games from midnight to 6:00 am for all under 16 years old, a goal many have wanted for some time. It would extend the time children have to sleep and protect their health. However, the priest says this goal is complicated by families that urge their children to stay up late to study. Students who study at the academies to better their chances of getting into college are looked upon with pride. He sees no movement to 'Shut Down Study' to protect the health of these children and give them a good night's sleep. The 'Shut Down,' he says, is an effort to prevent the children from taking time from studies and spending the time in playing games, but the projected plan is not in keeping with the times. He feels it is not equitable and will actually have little practical value.
If the addiction, and not the many hours of study and occasional gaming on the internet, is the problem, efforts should be made, the priest says, to zero in on the reason for the addiction. The result of all addictions is the same-- alcohol, gambling, drugs. As they do in other countries, efforts should be made to have those addicted acknowledge the problem and to set up rehabilitation programs to help them return to a normal life.
For children who are addicted to the online games, he feels that rather than forcibly blocking them from going online, it would be more productive to find out why they have this non-healthy approach, and then to help them recover so they can use the games in the way they are meant to be used. The misuse of something should not automatically take away its use; instead it should provide us with an incentive to study the root causes of the problem, and to set up guidelines so that children most at risk can make better use of the internet. That the abuses are many is no longer open to debate. What should be done continues to be a persistent question. A question that deserves to be taken seriously by society.