Digital games are bad for children as they can easily become addicted to them. Often, this addiction can drive children and teenagers to spend between 14 to 16 hours hunched before their Personal Computers (PC) or video gaming consoles.
This issue is prevalent in the developed and developing countries alike. A recent study under Save the Children's Good Cause campaign, has revealed the severity of the crisis in Dhaka.
The research found that nearly 49 per cent children in the city regularly play digital games, as they do not have playgrounds and safe environment to play.
The research was conducted on 300 children, aged between eight and 14 years, hailing from different areas of the city. The research ran from December 2017 until March 2018.
Around 46.90 per cent children are deprived of playing in an open field. Of this number, 36 per cent cited the dearth of playgrounds and 12 per cent ticked the lack of safe environment for playing, as reasons behind the deprivation.
The study found that around 50 per cent children in Kalyanpur slum areas play video games. The number is around 24 per cent in Dhanmondi, 21 per cent in Mirpur and 18 per cent in Dhaka University and adjoining areas. It should be observed that the residential areas, where children play less video games, have more open fields and playgrounds.
The study also found a significant gap between the playing habits of boys and girls. Nearly 51 per cent boys and 23 per cent girls play football regularly.
Around 60 per cent parents of girls felt that separate fields and playgrounds are necessary for girls. Nearly 33 per cent parents cited the lack of safe environment for their children in open fields and 26 per cent spoke of negative comments from other members of the society, as reasons.
The study also noted that despite being a properly planned residential area, Uttara can satisfy only 10 per cent of international standard children-friendly, safe play zones.
All these factors are pushing children towards digital games and screen-based entertainment on electronic devices like television, tab, mobile phone etc. As a result, they are becoming addicted to these screens.
It has been observed in developed countries that such addiction can have long-term effects on children. Sedentary situations caused by playing video games for long hours can cause deep vein thrombosis, heart failure, severe exhaustion and dehydration and asthma for some gaming addicts. Around 15 young men and women had died across the world between 2012 and 2016 from playing video games for more than 20 hours at a stretch.
A growing addiction to screen-based entertainment also hampers physical and social characteristics of children.
Due to these reasons, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised gaming disorder as a mental health condition on June 30 this year, allowing medical professionals to diagnose people with such disorders and treat them.
In Bangladesh, gaming addiction has still not reached this stage. To prevent deterioration of the situation, the government and society as a whole should work together to create a healthy social-cultural environment, for the young in particular.
There is no alternative to open playgrounds for children as playing in such environments keep them healthy, make them more athletic, increase their intelligence and hone other necessary skills.
Communities of residential areas can work towards making space for playgrounds.
Same demands can be made by residents living in apartment complexes. There are plenty of apartment complexes in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and even neighbouring India, where separate playgrounds are available for children of residents.
Measures like these need to be taken for the benefit of the younger generations, before it becomes too late.
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