Keep a watch on kids' gaming habits
Dubai - Experts have expressed their concern about the youngsters' gaming hobby.
With no schoolwork to keep them busy, many kids are stuck at home, glued to their video games. And in the wake of the recent mass shooting in the US - where the gunman said he was inspired by the combat game Call of Duty - local experts have expressed their concern about the youngsters' gaming hobby.
While the experts say gun violence is a far-fetched incident in the UAE, they have raised caution on the ill effects of wanton exposure to video games, noting that these "have become more realistic, and violent games have become more diverse".
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Rex Venard Bacarra, dean of general education and professor of philosophy at American College of Dubai, said: "When a youth is repeatedly exposed to media violence, it normalises what is otherwise considered aggressive.
"It creates a pattern that can build up over time. Repeated exposure decreases the way we react to violent situations, thus creating a desensitised response to brutality."
"To say that there is no direct correlation between violent video games and actual crimes is a flawed judgment that begs for more studies as longitudinal research is lacking - specifically, a study on the effect of habitual exposure that leads to later crimes," underlined Bacarra, who is also a techie and co-founder of Creative Design Company, ODD (On Distinctive Designs).
He said a paper published by the American Psychological Association that examined 40 years of research on this matter found out that when all scientific studies are combined, the effects are consistent, "increased aggressive behavior and thoughts and also increased physiological arousal".
"My theory is that the effect may not be short-term, but long-term," he underlined.
Bacarra also said violent video games have started to proliferate in the late 1990s, where games rewarded killing innocent bystanders and even children, using various tools and instruments, including knives, flame throwers, swords, metals, cars and baseball bats.
"The gorier and bloodier the game was, arguably, the better it seemed," he noted.
Dr Muhammad S. Tahir, child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, stressed that a human mind grows gradually and all learnings become part of a person's behaviour. "So, if a child excessively plays video games, it influences his or her thinking process. Hence, screen time other than for the educational activities should be monitored carefully," he said.
"Young brains cannot distinguish the difference between safe and unsafe websites. The fantasy of gaining control through the skills learned by practising with joysticks and knobs can have a huge influence on them."
Gaming industry reaches all-time high
An American market research company, the NPD Group, reported that the video game industry has reached an all-time high of $43.4 billion in 2018, with the violent Grand Theft Auto ranking as the best-selling game.
As mass shootings have become prevalent in the US, President Donald Trump has cited video games as one explanation for the bloodshed. However, in an Associated Press report, The Entertainment Software Association - the biggest video game trade group - reiterated its position.
"More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions play worldwide," the group said in a statement. "Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the US."