By Hasala Perera
It was very sad and unfortunate to see incidents of suicide among children which have been unfairly attributed to the usage of electronic games. As a millennial, we were the first generation in Sri Lanka that played electronic games as kids, it will be interesting to see how both, we and our parents deal with it.
The computer was the most popular device to play electronic games. Back then having a television was a matter of pride in a household, let alone a computer. There were no smartphones, laptops were rare and having internet was a definite luxury, so whatever sounds that was emitted from it and whatever danced inside the computer screen was magical. Hence, in short computers were simply awe inspiring.
Many computers did not have games pre-installed games had to be purchased or borrowed, which would come through a CD or a floppy disk (a rectangular storage disk about 3.5” large that could only store 1 per cent of a 1GB Pen Drive). So, unlike today it was not as easy as downloading from the internet, there were times where the installation failed after 99 per cent of completion.
One similarity I found between parents of our generation and the present generation was that both were equally sceptical of electronic games due to the fear of addiction. During our childhood this problem did not take a serious turn due to two reasons:
Firstly, when we were young, computers were often placed in the verandah or in a separate room called a ‘Computer Room,’ and the screens were traditional CRT monitors. Therefore, everyone could see what we were doing, so there was nothing to hide and there was very little room for controversy to take place.
What surprises me most is the decision taken by parents to buy smartphones and laptops rather than traditional desktops, despite desktop computers being easily upgradable and can be purchased at a lesser cost than a modern smartphone.
Secondly, because of the level of self-discipline traits we cultivated as children, controversial games did exist during our time (Duke Nukem 3D was a good example). Even though we had heard of them, we were never tempted nor did we attempt to play them as offending someone was something we would not dare do. This is quite in contrast to the present generation who would want to try out everything that gets into their hands with scant responsibility. Therefore, the problem here is in the inculcation of modest values rather than the addiction of the games.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed on traditional education have made both teachers and children to get into online learning platforms where children get more exposed to technology. Even though children are undergoing very stringent restrictions compared to our generations, the levels of anxiety and distress could be comparatively similar to what we faced during the brutal stages of the war. Yet both parents and children can develop a better attitude towards electronic games, by using the following guidelines:
Introducing popular games such as Monopoly and Scrabble would be a good option. These games have been played for generations and you will never go wrong with them and the electronic versions of these games are available on many platforms.
Having a timetable is another great habit; this could discipline the child to divide time between schoolwork and other activities.
Show some interest in the games your children play and make it a point to ask your children to explain about the games they play. This will help the child to be a good communicator where he can learn the skill of explanation. If the child shows signs of irritation and disturbance this will be a good place to detect it, so that the child can be guided appropriately.
Playing electronic games is not something new or bad and children as well as parents have the right to be entertained through latest available technologies. However, they should also ensure that these devices get the maximum use for the development of the child, as developing a skill should build up the personality of a child and if appropriately guided electronic games can assist them in this task.