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Govt blamed for rise in child online game addicts

THE NUMBER of children addicted to online games has risen by 100 per cent in the short span since the government decided to recognise “e-sports” last October, said a psychiatrist who spoke up yesterday to highlight the adverse impacts from the decision.
“It’s not okay to just redefine online games as ‘e-sports’,” Dr Yongyuth Wongpiromsan from the Mental Health Department told a seminar organised by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation to address e-sports problems.
“In fact, e-sports form one type of competition – but not sports,” Yongyuth said.
Teerarat Pantawee, who heads the National Health Assembly’s panel on children and media, said many children were now negotiating for more online game-playing time by arguing with their parents that their games are sports. But “game addiction causes physical, mental and brain problems,” she said. Teerarat believed e-sports had grown more popular partly because there were many official e-sport contests and promotions. “Thailand’s e-sport industry is now worth more than Bt10 billion. It has also been growing at the rate of 12 per cent per annum,” she said. According to the 2018 DQ Impact Study by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, more than 50 per cent of children used the Internet to play games. “And on average, Thai children spent 35 hours a week online,” she said. According to Teerarat, children’s excessive exposure to such media is not good for developing their intellectual and emotional quotients. Yongyuth said e-sports should be regulated and controlled, while Teerarat said she would not demand the scrapping of e-sports, but wanted protection for children and parents who did not fully understand the issues and could become vulnerable to associated dangers. “It’s time we clearly defined what an ‘e-sport’ is. It’s time we clearly list its pros and cons,” she said. She said that e-sports could lead some players to fame and a nice career and “e-sport playing may also foster teamwork and discipline, on top of giving fun and entertainment”. But she emphasised that e-sport could also lead to game addiction, lack of concentration, physical inactivity, a poor academic record and family problems. Sports Authority of Thailand’s deputy governor Nattawut Ruangwes said his organisation had resolved to recognise e-sports after listening to various sides. “Online games also match the criteria of what sports is by our standard,” he said.Nattawut reckoned that the Thailand E-sports Federation was not yet strong and continued to be dominated by business groups. “We will monitor what happens. If adverse impacts grow, we will review our decision,” he said. According to Nattawut, the Thailand E-sports Federation has promised to properly regulate the scope and content of e-sports. Peeratch Ingkudanonda, a world-class e-sport player, said he was now pursuing it as a career. “I’ve known for quite some time that I am good at playing games. Now, I practice hard about eight hours a day, five days a week,” he said. “But I have also striven to maintain a well-balanced life. I also go to a fitness center to maintain my good health.” Nation – EP

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