This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Mobile games and esports are huge all over the world, but they have resulted in dire consequences in Indonesia.
Doctors at the Cisarua Mental Hospital in East Java said that it treats dozens of children, aged 7 to 15 years old, every month for smartphone addiction. According to their data, the hospital has had 209 such cases since 2016.
“Since 2016, 60 percent of our beds are filled by patients with a smartphone addiction,” Elly Marliyani, Director of the Cisarua Mental Hospital, told local media. While some of them come in for an examination, most stay at the hospital as inpatients.
“So, we’ve definitely seen a spike. This is where parents’ crucial role in monitoring their children comes into play. At our hospital alone, we’ve had hundreds of children come in for smartphone addiction, so who knows how many more were sent elsewhere.”
Dr. Lina Budiyanti, a children’s mental health specialist, said parents should look out for symptoms of addiction early on in order to prevent mental disorders in their children.
People with an addiction to gaming, Budiyanti said, exhibit up to eleven symptoms as outlined in the Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These include withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away, increased irritability, and deceiving loved ones about the amount of time spent gaming.
“Children play games to escape their discomforts. But the amount of time they spend playing is disproportionate. And that’s when they start lying to their parents so they can keep playing. They get anxious if they don’t play, but the game itself also makes them anxious. It’s a vicious cycle,” Budiyanti told local media.
For children, Budiyanti suggested a maximum of two hours of screen time, as smartphone addiction is not just limited to mobile games; YouTube is included too. Children are considered addicted when they spend more than six hours a day on their phone. Once they’re addicted, Bidiyanti said, it takes three months to wean them off.
In May 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared “gaming disorder” to be a legitimate health condition characterised by “impaired control over gaming” and the prioritisation of gaming over other activities and interests.
The East Javanese government is currently developing a response program for individuals with a gaming addiction, but this relatively new phenomenon certainly requires further research. Considering that gaming is one of the most popular activities today, finding a solution to the crisis unfolding across the world is a worthwhile endeavour.