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Health chiefs target gaming addiction

Oct 31. 2018
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By The Nation

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To protect young Thais from computer gaming addictions, the Ministry of Public Health has joined forces with 84 organisations to launch National Mental Health Week 2018.

It said young people should know how to relax and play games in moderation. 

Health minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, who presided over the opening ceremony on Wednesday, said the government marked November 1-7 every year as mental health week and this year "gaming disorder” was the target. 

The World Health Organisation in June announced it would add “gaming disorder due to addictive behaviour” to its globally recognised medical conditions, he said. 

The proposal will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 and is expected to take effect in 2022. 

Piyasakol said about 2 million young Thais had gaming addictions or were at risk of developing one. 

Many lacked self-discipline and the knowledge of how to protect themselves from addiction, which hampered their mental, physical and behavioural development, the minister added. 

The ministry and its allies would call for measures to control gaming competitions so event organisers would be socially responsible. 

The initiative will campaign for public awareness of appropriate gaming for different age groups and would set a system to monitor the issue and aid those affected to access available services, he said.

They would also campaign for parents to follow the three musts: gaming time of less than two hours a day; reach an agreement with the child and select constructive games such as educational puzzles; and play games with the child to supervise and bond. 

The three things parents must avoid are: setting bad examples, such as playing violent games or spending too much time gaming; no gaming during family time during meals or trips out; and no gaming in bedrooms where it is difficult to control and supervise. 

Piyasakol also urged parents not to use screens as pre-school care for under-fives as it would affect their development, boost aggression and over-competitiveness. 

Mental Health Department director-general Dr Kiattiphum Wongrachit said gaming addictions, especially in online team fighting games, could lead to disorders such as limited attention, anxiety, depression, mood swings, drug addiction and seizures. When told to stop playing, children would often become angry and aggressive and regularly fell behind at school. 

They were also at risk of sexual assault from chatting with strangers, gambling, swearing, cyberbullying, theft, drug abuse and suicide.

He also invited people to do the online test to detect gaming addictions via or seek advise from the department's 24-hour hotline 1323.

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