Taming gaming addiction in Kenya


With its blend of social connectivity and sheer enjoyment gaming is captivating millions worldwide. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

While growing up in the village, the word 'gaming' was a foreign term. But this is different with the current young and adult populations. To some, the word has entrenched itself as a cornerstone for their entertainment. With its blend of social connectivity and sheer enjoyment, it is captivating millions worldwide.

Despite the cognitive challenges, amid its allure of shadow, lies the spectre of addiction. Just as with any engrossing pursuit, gaming carries the potential for excess. If not checked and proper policy regulations put in place, it can exact a heavy toll on individuals and communities.

Recent research conducted across 10 African nations underscores the pervasiveness of gaming addiction, particularly among African youth. The studies revealed startling statistics in that up to 34 percent of high school and university students are ensnared by the grip of gaming addiction.

Moreover, the correlation between excessive gaming and adverse mental health outcomes such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

This underscores the urgency of addressing this issue. The demographic profile of gaming addicts paints a nuanced picture, with male students, urban residents, and heavy internet users bearing a disproportionate burden.

This profile hints at the complex interplay of socio-cultural factors, technological access, and individual vulnerabilities in shaping addictive behaviours.

Recognising the signs of gaming addiction is paramount in stemming its tide. The symptoms are manifold, from compulsive gaming habits to neglect of responsibilities and strained interpersonal relationships. Prompt identification and intervention can forestall the progression of addiction and mitigate its adverse consequences.

Complicating matters further is the dearth of awareness among parents regarding the perils of excessive gaming. All too often, caregivers remain oblivious until the addiction has firmly taken root, leaving them grappling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

However, research suggests that genetic predispositions may play a part in individuals' addictive tendencies, underscoring the need for early intervention and support.

Addressing gaming addiction demands a complex approach that acknowledges its multifactorial etiolog. Biological predispositions, psychological vulnerabilities, and socio-environmental influences all shape an individual's susceptibility to addiction. Tailoring interventions to address these diverse factors is vital to fostering lasting recovery and resilience.

Yet, the cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues poses a formidable barrier to seeking help, particularly in African societies. To surmount this obstacle, concerted efforts to destigmatise gaming addiction and mental illness at large are imperative.

Public awareness campaigns can foster empathy and understanding, paving the way for individuals and families to seek assistance without fear of judgment or ostracisation.

The role of support networks and treatment facilities cannot be overstated in this endeavour. By expanding access to counselling services, support groups, and rehabilitation centres, communities can provide a lifeline to those grappling with gaming addiction.

Emphasising the non-linear nature of recovery, with its inevitable setbacks and triumphs, underscores the importance of perseverance and ongoing support.

Promoting responsible gaming practices is equally vital in mitigating the risk of addiction.

The writer is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the European Union, Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States and World Customs Organization. The article is written at a personal level.

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