By Ruhail Choudhury
Covid Lockdown had several significant impacts in the lives of children. Most children were confined within the four walls of their houses for several months and they were suddenly introduced to a whole new world of online education. Most parents were compelled to provide mobile phones or laptops with internet connections to support the need of the hour. While all our attention was focused towards the devastating effects of the pandemic, most of us actually failed or neglected to critically understand the transformation that children were going through.
When covid came under control, some significant impacts on children were realized. Surveys suggested that a huge percentage of children had gained significant amount of weight due to the change in their lifestyle during the lockdown period in particular. Online games became extremely popular and the level of involvement in many suggested serious addiction. PUBG, Free Fire, BGMI, doodle army, COD are some of the most popular online games among children today.
Experts believe online games has certain serious concerns on both physical and mental health of children, particularly if they are addicted to it. Some of the most basic concerns are that it reduces exposure of children from outdoor sports and games which are certainly good for healthy growing up of children. There is a huge difference between playing cricket or football in the outdoor environment or through online games. Long hours of continuous staring at illuminated bright mobile phone or laptop screens has serious adverse impacts on eyes. The increasing number of eye problems among children ranging from ‘vision loss’ to ‘dry eyes’ are also reported. Children are sometimes so engrossed while playing such games that they often don’t realise that their sitting postures are wrong and it may even lead to back or neck pains.
It has been observed that on account of highly realistic graphics, sound effects and synchronised actions while playing such games children actually get connected to the virtual environment and even start feeling and believing that they have actually entered the virtual world.
Some of the most popular online multiplayer games are extremely violent. Playing and participating in such games for long hours may even adversely impact the growing minds and develop cruel and violent mindsets. Children addicted to online games are often found to be more self-centred and introverted in their approach and they generally find it difficult to socialize or mix up with family members or make new friends. The catastrophic effects of children with extremely violent mindsets as found in disturbing incidents of shooting with guns in schools in America or a school student cutting the throat of a junior student in Delhi a few years back and many other gruesome criminal activities by children across the world.
Some of the online multiplayer games may have much more serious impacts on children than what we can normally think of. These online games are also channels of direct interactions and communications with unknown strangers participating from various locations of the world with possibly erroneous or fake identities. Children often pick up a lot of bad and abusive worlds from such strangers playing with them, and even there are serious risks of some adults disguised as children entering the games and exploiting children in various undesired ways. There are also risks of gambling and excessive spending through such online games.
It is therefore suggested that parents should ideally guide and track children and check what kind of online games they are playing, and how much time they are spending on such activities and thereby avoid risks related to over-exposure or addictions to such games for a more healthy growing up of children.
Author: Ruhail Choudhury is an eminent corporate lawyer who specializes in cyber law from WBNUJS, studied child protection laws at Harvard University and founder of www.thevoicesonline.com, a digital platform connecting millions of children across the world to promote international peace and friendship.