An estimated 2.7 million young Thais are addicted to video games and online activities, according to a government-sponsored survey.
Assoc Prof Chanvit Pornnoppadol, of the department of psychiatry, faculty of medicine, at Siriraj Hospital, said the survey ws conducted by the Ministry of Culture, the Department of Mental Health and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Rajanakarindra Institute between March and June this year. It involved 20,000 children nationwide.
According to the survey report, 15% of respondents said they were addicted to online games, to the Line communication application and to Facebook.
This finding could be extrapolated to more than 2.7 million young people spending most of their time on online games, given there are an estimated 18 million children in the country.
Mr Chanvit said game addicts can exhibit agressive and violent behaviour, physically hurting their parents or themselves if they are not allowed to play their games. They have a tendency to skip classes and stay awake late at night to play games, which can lead to a poor school performance and refusal to join in school activities, he said.
“There are many young game addicts who need to be rehabilitated, but only 30 to 40 of them come to be treated annually,” he said. “This could be because their parents do not know where their children can be taken to.”
He said the amount of time it takes to rehabilitate game addicts is equal to the time needed to treat drug addicts, because they have to be disconnected from the IT world entirely.
“Many people now just keep their heads down and look at their smart phones, and this can be seen in many public places. They’re too attached to IT,” Mr Chanvit said. “We’ll have to provide other activities to divert their attention to other things around them.”
Sura Techatat, adviser to the culture minister, said on Monday that communication technology has spread to people of all ages and genders. It has brought both positive and negative developments, but the negative side of communication technology has more impact on society than the postive, he said.
Playing certain games is illegal and the Culture Ministry is responsible for overseeing young people and their engagement with information technology. The ministry is working with different sectors to encourage young people to spend their time constructively, and asks the media to play a more constructive role, Mr Sura said.