Internet driving children to violence: study

Internet driving children to violence: study

Gaming addiction fuelled by mobiles

Thai youths who spend most of the hours of their week on mobile phones and computers are at risk of developing violent behaviour and gaming addiction, a study shows.

The study, by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), showed Thai youngsters spend more than 35 hours a week on the devices.

Mobile phone addiction in children, dubbed the "digital natives", is a problem that is common for many parents, said Nattaya Boonpakdee, the director of the Healthy Child, Youth, and Family Promotion section, at ThaiHealth.

She said children grow up with instant access to computers and smart phones in a world driven by the internet.

They use the devices both for pleasure and study and as a tool of communication through social media.

From a field survey, she found that eight-month-old toddlers and one to two year-olds have touched mobile phones.

Many parents give their young children mobile phones to play with, not realising the danger posed by the devices as addiction could have detrimental effects on the children's growth and cognitive development.

According to this year's health situation report by the foundation, Thai children spend an average of 35 hours a week on mobile phones and other screen devices.

On average, children should not use the devices more than 16 hours per week, the report said.

The survey on 15,000 young people nationwide also showed that 61% of those aged between 6-18 are at risk of being addicted to online games because they play the games more than three hours a day.

This can lead them to gambling online and engaging in violent behaviour.

Ms Nattaya said a solution would be to strengthen family bonds where members spend more quality time together.

Sirichai Hongsanguansri, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, said mobile phone addiction in youngsters is on the rise.

He said the phones should be kept out of reach of children younger than two years old who need to interact in person with parents to forge natural bonds.

Children aged between 2-6 should spend no more than two hours on the phones. They should use the phones under their parents' supervision.

Youngsters who are addicted to phones are inclined to be aggressive and find it hard to control their behaviour.

Meanwhile, Wimolrat Wanpen, deputy director of the Institute of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, said addicted children cut themselves off from the real world.

Many ended up dropping out of school even though they were bright children.

Parents can wean their children off phones by offering constructive face-to-face activities the family can do together.

She cited the case of a secondary school student who often skipped meals and stayed up all night to play online games on their phones. Her mother scolded her and vented her anger which only drove the girl to be more reclusive.

The girl, Or, said she was able to kick the habit after her mother took a gentle approach and talked to her about the problem.

"My mum changed. I thought I should too," the girl said.

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