Addiction can become hidden enemy
By Yun Suh-young
A woman in her 20s was arrested Thursday on charges of killing her baby right after giving birth in a restroom of an Internet cafe in Songpa-gu, Seoul.
She had been playing Internet games every day since last January until the incident took place last week. She was too engaged in the game to realize that her water broke, according to the police.
The woman is an online game addict and she is not alone in committing such heinous crime due to the bad habit.
In 2010, a couple was sentenced to prison for leaving their three-month-old daughter to die of malnutrition. They were both game addicts who were also fostering a virtual baby online. They were so engaged in the Internet role-playing game that they neglected their real baby daughter.
Other cases include a man in his 20s killing his mom for scolding him for playing online games and a man in his 30s dying after falling unconscious due to playing games for 15 hours a day for five consecutive days.
In such manner the problem of online game addiction can get quite serious without easy ways to detect the symptoms. Like any addiction, recovery can be a long difficult process.
“It takes time to rehabilitate a person from addiction. It’s not something that can be solved in one or two months. It may take a year or two to root it out. They must receive treatment for at least a year,” said Baeck Sung-yun, director of the Game Clinic Center located in Gangnam, southern Seoul.
A serious factor is that online game addiction is often accompanied by other kinds of addictions as well such as addiction to pornography, alcohol or drugs and this contributes to crime.
“The most shocking case I’ve seen is a game-addicted teenager who became addicted to pornography. The addiction first starts with games, but as the boys grow older, they move on to watching pornography instead of playing games. The percentage of high school students playing games is lower than those in elementary or middle schools. But the problem is, once they get addicted to porn, they show shockingly perverted behavior and have a hard time adjusting to a normal lifestyle or getting married,” said Baeck.
Alcohol or drug addiction can also complicate the situation.
“Those who are exposed to alcohol or drugs have a higher tendency to become addicted to games and vice versa. Basically, if there’s a tendency toward one kind of addiction, other kinds of addictions are likely to follow,” said Noh Jai-sung, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Ajou University Medical Center.
“People addicted to smoking go to buy cigarettes even if the store is very far away. The same applies to other kinds of addiction. If a person is abusing or dependent on something, he or she can be said to be an addict. It’s when the urge is not satisfied that the violent or unexpected behavior occurs,” he said.
Teenagers are the greatest victims of online game addiction.
“Because they’re under great stress, a lot of teenagers become addicted to playing such games. If they don’t recognize the problem early on and resolve it, the addiction continues until they become adults. Parents think it’s a passing phase but it’s not. Early treatment is very important,” said Baeck.
Game clinics or rehabilitation centers help patients solve the addiction problem through counseling, reading therapy and play therapy. But what’s most important is the role of the family. In order for the change in the child to occur, the parents and the family environment must change.
“Even if the kids recover from the addiction, if the family environment is stressful, they will go back to playing games. So ultimately, parents must change their perceptions about their child,” said Baeck.
“Most parents who come to our center for counseling think that the addiction is only the kid’s problem. They don’t think it’s their own. But parents also share the blame. If they have a problem in raising the child, it must change. If they have problems between themselves, they must stop fighting in front of the children. The family must unite. And the kid should also have a strong desire to change.”
For those who don’t have the will, they must be convinced by giving them a goal, helping them find an alternative hobby or a mentor.
There are currently about 2 million online game addicts according to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and half of them are teenagers.