Tuesday, February 02, 2016


This post first appeared in Kungfu Cats Academy.

I watched this TED talk recently by Johann Hari regarding Addiction. It's a good talk show, and it talks about how everything we knew about addiction is out-dated and wrong. In essence, addiction had been shown to be cured by introducing more social bonds to the addicts. If the addicts have something to look forward to, where they feel they are needed and wanted, then they will not depend on substances like alcohol, gaming, gambling or drugs etc to fulfill that need for connections.

This might be important information when I meet computer games addicted teenagers in my line of work.

Usually gaming addiction is a more serious problem afflicting boys. Girls have their own set of nightmares to deal with, but it's seldom with gaming. At least I've not seen it before, even with my 12 yrs in this business with more students being females than males. The worst case I've seen that I can't handle is a boy who lives around Serangoon area. He lives in a well to do district in private estate and also studied in a very good school near his district. Everything seems to be fine for him except that he can't stop gaming day and night, somethings without much sleep. He will go to lessons with me feeling all grumpy and sleepy, and sometimes I've to wait a good 30 mins or so to wait for him to come down. I was pretty newbie back then, so I couldn't handle this case and had to give up. I always wondered what happened to him.

While I'm pretty sure restricting access to tablets and smartphones to young kids is going to work, especially for young boys, I think there's also another way that we had to work on. Most of these kids have highly successful parents - all high flyers in their respective fields. And unfortunately all very busy with their careers to really take care of the little nitty gritty details in their family life. Most of the time the maid (and occasionally, maids) will have to take care of the kids. The situation is kind of ridiculous - it's like telling the policeman to catch criminals but they can't touch the criminals. They can only yell and scold and hope the criminals will slow down and head for the nearest jail themselves. Paper tigers won't stand a chance; kids these days know the power relationship very very well.

The other way that we had to work on, based on the TED talk mentioned above, is to work on connecting them to something outside of themselves. Usually this connection is fulfilled by parents or grandparents, then followed by friends. But these days with the social connection kind of being fulfilled online by gaming or social media, it's all going downhill. Maybe reality is so bad and stressful that people are finding connections online. Fighting demons with a powerful wizard in greater rifts level 70 easily with a press of a few mouse clicks can be quite empowering. Probably much better than facing an empty connections in an empty house in real life, or the prospect of being an un-liked kid in school.

I'm a gamer too, and I played games throughout exams period since primary school. But there's always something out there in the real work that I felt obliged to go back to, either out of responsibility or duty. Maybe that is what parents need to work on. And from experience, they will really have to start young, probably in primary school level. After that, it's going to be harder and harder to change.

I've seen plenty of cases where the parents, suddenly aware of the dropping results of their kids in secondary school, started to punish the kids by withdrawing their laptop or handphones. It works initially because of the cold turkey treatment, but eventually that emptiness still needs to be filled by something tangible. If not, the kid will go back to the gaming. Do you think your locked passwords can stop them? These kids are digital natives, and probably know a few tricks that you don't even know. Besides, they can also go LAN shop or some friend's home for 'group study'. With games being online and so mobile, you don't even need your own computer to play.

I'm a bit long winded here because this is something close to heart. The key takeaways mixed with some suggestions:

1. While making sure your kid are not having unrestricted access to any gaming devices, do make sure you set a good habit also. Taking the mobile devices away from your kid but using them yourself to play games is kind of pointless. The irony of which can be easily noticed by your kid.

2. While removing mobile gaming device from your addicted kids, do make sure you have something else to replace that connection. Gaming as an addiction is just a symptom. The real cause is the need for connections. How about spending more time with them?

3. I believe dads can play a greater role in parenting. 99% of the parents I liased with are with the mothers. 99% of the time the mum are the ones who bring the kids to my place for lessons, regardless of whether the mums are working or not. It's something to reflect on when I become a parent as well. This is probably the best reasons to be financially free.