“Addiction” is a term well known to everyone. Usually we are used to hearing “drug addiction”, but we hardly hear “digital addiction”. Digital addiction refers to an impulse control disorder that involves the obsessive use of digital devices, digital technologies and digital platforms, i.e. internet, video games, online entertainment, mobile devices, digital gadgets and social media platforms. Developing a compulsive urge to use digital devices, as it interferes with everyday life and stops doing the things one needs to do, is a hallmark of digital addiction. There are three different types of digital addiction namely phone addiction, internet addiction, and social media addiction.
Beyond the era of information and communication technologies, we are now on a journey into the digital age. Technology is a blessing to us, in which there is no suspicion. But, the uncontrolled use of technology has become a curse for us. He gave us a lot, but took double from us. Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the use of technology has increased dramatically in all sectors and this is remarkably more in education sectors. Teachers, students and tutors must depend on the online education system. This is how our education works and there is no other alternative than this.
The involvement of students in online education for a long time leads to a growing interest in learning the use of online mystery and hence they turn to online games. Since there is no teacher control over the internet when teaching online, students engage in phone games, watch vulnerable scenes on YouTube, chat on Facebook, etc. behind teaching-learning. In a nutshell, students are taking an uncontrolled reach of the internet while taking online courses and becoming involved in digital addiction. This is because teachers cannot draw their attention to good lessons when teaching online. Additionally, as parents, we also cannot provide them with alternative entertainment, rather we confine them to the four-walled building as an excuse for Covid-19.
Let’s look back, we spent our childhood in the dusty body of rural Bengal. Various sports and leisure activities were present in the village. We used to spend our childhood in various sports including cricket, soccer, kabaddi, gollachut, lukochuri, boating, kite flying, etc. for entertainment and mental energy. It was also a fun way to spend time back then. In the backyard at night, all family members listened to grandparents’ stories, hung out together, regardless of young and old. As a result, the family has developed a close and friendly relationship with each other. All souls seemed to be tied in the same door of love.
Currently, we see that everything is changing in the vortex of time. There has been a change in the shape and color of life. With the change of weather, new thoughts come in and consume the world of old thoughts. Going to the field in the afternoon to play, hang out with friends, sit and talk with family, is just plain boring for the new generation in the digital age. A few friends sit together and chat, but everyone’s eyes are glued to the screen in all four corners of the phone. Now, no one is giving anyone time. As a result, the relationship seems to have become very fragile.
Now, students are choosing online games, Pubji and Free Fire for entertainment. In the afternoon, children and adolescents are no longer seen playing on the field. Sit in a corner of the house and get drunk while playing online video games. They spend their time on the four corners of the screen for hours. The most popular online video games for kids and teens are Pubji and Free Fire, which seem to be overplayed these days. Player Unknown Battle Ground (PUBG), a game developed by a subsidiary of South Korean company Blue-Whale, has become a training center for children and adolescents in online games like Pabji and Free Fire.
An analysis of the Pubji game shows that there are 100 people living on an abandoned island, where some players arrived with parachutes and started the battle for survival. It can be played in groups of four. These four players got involved in the great organization of killing 100 people. The main principle of this game is to kill and survive. “To Survive, Kill More” is the motto of this game. Free Fire is also modeled on this game.
These two matches are the most played in world statistics. According to several surveys, 87 million people around the world currently play Pubji and Free Fire every day. About 10 crore downloads are made from the Google Play Store every day. Another online survey indicates that statistics on playing more than one crore of games each day in Bangladesh are also available. On the other hand, the Free Fire game of terror and violence is not left out. About 50 million people around the world play free fire every day. About 7 million people play in Bangladesh. Another global survey found that 4.6 percent of teens and young adults are addicted to internet games. Of these, 7.8% are adolescents and 1.3% are adults.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), as of April 2019, around 9.37 million people in Bangladesh were connected to the internet. According to 2016 data, 35 percent of students are in secondary and upper secondary education, i.e. adolescents. During the pandemic, it almost doubled. These are mostly at huge digital addiction risk. In the 11th revised version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), gambling addiction was adopted as a mental health problem in June 2018. Subsequently, it was attached to the Diagnostic Guide titled ICD- 11 to be released in 2022. In other words, the World Health Organization has identified the harmful use of these online games, cell phones, computers or video games as a disease. The funny thing is that those who make these games keep their kids away from those waves. Their only goal is to create the next generation of insane loyalists.
Every popular digital game is a story of horrific war of terror-violence and death. A researcher at Diakin University in Australia, Helen Young writes in her article “Violence and the Far-Rights”, terrorism-based video games are a plot to generalize terrorist violence. It stirs up people’s inner guilt. Young people are taught to take murder as normal. Morality is lost in people. Even if someone is killed unjustly on the street, no one is coming forward now. The main goal of game makers is to create some kind of addiction among the users. In fact, millions of teenage students around the world are addicted to video games. As a result, social values, education and culture are destroyed and future generations become incompetent. This dependence weakens their creative power. Addiction can sometimes lead to a horrific path, like suicide. On May 21, a sixth grader named UmmeHabibaBarsha committed suicide in Shahjahanpur after she could not play the “free shooter” on her cell phone.
Adequate data is needed to play these games, which require a fair amount of money. Recently a student named Ripon committed suicide because he could not manage the money to buy free fire data in Birampur, Dinajpur. According to an online survey in Bangladesh, around 17 people have committed suicide this year because of video games. The list of suicides caused by addiction to online games is growing. Experts say video game addiction is more dangerous than drugs. They named it “Digital Drug”. An addict behaves as if he is not taking drugs; likewise, online gaming addicts do not hesitate to commit suicide by not being able to play the game. Like drug addiction, it is very difficult to get out of online games. However, it is possible to get out of gambling addiction by having a strong will and engaging in cultural or service activities.
Considering the horror of this kind of games, neighboring countries like India, Nepal, Japan, Iran and many other countries have banned Pubji and Free Fire games. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of talk and criticism about this in Bangladesh, but it could not be stopped for unseen reasons. If the younger generation cannot be freed from addiction, they will have to face a terrible situation.
It is important to stop these games based on terrorism in Bangladesh soon. Moreover, parents need to be more aware of this to save their children from such addiction. We must ensure humane and healthy entertainment for students in the online world, develop the habit of reading books in them and encourage them to get involved in religious and moral education. The government can impose strict legal restrictions on the use of such entertainment on the Internet, even the BTRC can weaken the speed of the network to discourage them from playing such games. We should allow our children to go to the playground and organize sports activities while maintaining the social security policy. In order to advance the younger generation and reach the pinnacle of their success in the world, we have to say “No” to digital addiction just as we say “No” to drug addiction. Then the golden harvest will come to Golden Bengal. We must remember that now the wound is small, it will heal with medicine, but if the wound is large, it will be difficult to heal. Let us therefore bring them back on the path of light thanks to the joint efforts of all. Digital addiction must be stopped if all people, regardless of teachers, parents and the public, work together with moral responsibility.
Writer, Education Researcher and Director, Daffodil International School (DIS), Dhaka