Teenager kills mother over PUBG: Experts on how online gaming can affect mental health

Recently, a 16-year-old boy from Lucknow allegedly shot his mother because she stopped him from playing “online games like PUBG”, according to UP Police. In another incident from Hyderabad, a teenage boy lost Rs 36 lakh, which his family received as monetary benefit after his father’s death, while playing online games.

These grave incidents highlight the serious implications of online games on young minds. “Some research has indicated the use of gaming platforms, like PUBG, affect the mental health of players, and they may even suffer from depression and anxiety. Also, it has an adverse impact on those with ADHD and suicidality, and can also make one think of self-harm and propagate aggressive behaviour,” Dr Priyanka Jain, Development and Behavioral Paediatric, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said.

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While games like puzzles and chess can help adolescents and children develop comprehensive reasoning abilities, games like PUBG, according to Dr Syed Zafar Sultan Rizvi, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, School of Liberal Arts, Noida International University, “can transform the neurochemistry of the brain, in which hippocampus and amygdala play a very crucial role”. “These games lead to aggression among adolescents and can make them more likely to become involved in drug addiction and street brawls,” he said.

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As such, addiction to online gaming can be harmful and cause “procrastination, stress, anxiety and impulsivity”, Dr Rizvi said. “Further, it can lead to eating disorders that can convert into a habit. Adolescents, who spend most of their time on screens, get instant gratification (small rewards) while playing games and it leads towards habit formation.”

How to break the addiction cycle?

Any addiction cycle is based on habit formation, experts said. Elucidating, Dr Rizvi said, “Our brain makes habits which leads towards automatic actions (behaviour of a person). If we can find out the specific triggers that facilitate those behaviours, then we can break the chain of these patterns. We can help them to develop skills that make them delay their gratification and lower down their impulsive behaviour.”

Playing the games for 1 to 2 hours is safe but don’t go above that limit. (Source: Pexels)

Dr Jain suggested following these measures while playing online games.

Decide fixed gaming hours – Playing a game for 1-2 hours is safe, but don’t play beyond that. You can fix a pecific time of the day as your gaming hours.

Engage yourself in more activities – Engage yourself in more social activities and spend time with family and friends. Work on your hobbies like writing, dance, painting and music.

Focus on self-improvement – Read books, take courses, and spend more time on your career and academics to improve yourself.

Take medical advice – If you cannot tide over your addiction despite taking all measures, consult a counsellor or developmental pediatrician/child psychiatrist.

Highlighting the role of parents, Dr Rizvi said, “Parents can use different kinds of software and applications to manage their children’s times spent on screen. They can also counsel them about developing productive habits, plan a weekly trip to grandparents, hill station or encourage them to get involved in more realistic games like soccer, badminton and basketball, etc that make them physically and mentally fit.”

“Social deprivation may also be the cause of screen addiction. Parents should make sure that their children are socially involved in extracurricular activities,” he said.

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