Rooting out game addictionTension is building among government ministries, parents and the video game industry over the introduction of a law prohibiting youth from playing games on the Internet from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. Though all parties agreed to apply the restriction to students under the age of 16, there remains sharp divisions over whether the rule should cover smartphones.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the video game industry vehemently oppose applying the restriction to smartphones, saying it could lead to the breakup of a game industry that has been blooming. However, parents and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family are raising their voices to protect youth.
Gaming is a double-edged sword. An icon of the high-tech economy, the game industry in Korea is expected to generate 9.81 trillion won ($8.7 billion) in sales this year and exceed 10 trillion won next year, with Korea’s game-industry exports surpassing $1.5 billion last year.
But games are a common enemy to the parents of children who enjoy games a little too much. They find it hard to accept a reality in which their kids spend too much time playing games instead of studying. Moreover, many of them became addicted to the extent that gaming wreaks havoc on their minds.
However, a radical decision to block kids from playing games at night would hardly solve the problem.
Some experts say that resorting to a systematic blockade would violate our constitution. But we need to come up with a practical solution. When you type words like “game addiction” in a search engine, thousands of entries pop up, most of which are about how to cure addiction. An avalanche of ads for mental hospitals testifies to the severity of the problem that exists among some youth.
It is very regrettable that the game industry does not approach the issue voluntarily and aggressively. We hope that all members of the Korea Association of Game Industry establish a treatment center, launch a campaign to prevent addiction and tighten self-regulation before the government stepped in. It could employ a method that monitors players’ fatigue.
That would mean returning some of their massive profits to their customers. Above all, parents themselves must guide their kids and teach them moderation. Children under the age limit can still get alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. But when society, schools and parents work together, they can put the youth on the right track.