Help at hand for youth with gaming addiction

Programme aims to help them cope better with demands of real life, manage emotions

When Jurong West Secondary School's counsellor learnt that some students were physically attacking their parents for confiscating their devices when they had been using them for too long, he decided to turn to Touch Community Services for help.

Mr Gymy Lim, 35, said: "There were students who turned violent and pinned their parents to the floor when their parents tried to take away their devices."

In response to a growing need, Touch Community Services has started early intervention programme DigitalMindset for young people aged 12 to 21.

Mr Shawn Soh, senior counsellor at the charity group's Touch Youth Intervention and DigitalMindset lead, said the goal is not to stop young people from using their devices or gaming altogether, but to help them cope better with the demands of real life and manage their emotions in a healthy manner, through individual and group therapy sessions.

Run in collaboration with Mindset, the charity arm of Jardine Matheson Holdings, DigitalMindset kicked off this month with about 20 participants. Its 17 counsellors assess behaviour and device use via a questionnaire and an interview to see if intervention is needed.

Touch said it saw 90 cases related to excessive gaming and device use last year, nearly three times the figure in 2015.

"Young people today are different... and it's inevitable that they have to use their devices for some time every day," said Mr Soh, 30.

"What we do is help them realise the consequences their gaming habits have on their lives and the people around them, and then teach them coping strategies."

He said young people game excessively for three main reasons: a sense of achievement, immersion in a virtual reality and social interaction. The programme thus tries to provide an alternative outlet for these impulses through group therapy sessions, where the young people take part in activities such as dragon-boating or laser tag.

Parents and schools can call Touch's hotline on 1800-377-2252 about the programme.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline Help at hand for youth with gaming addiction. Subscribe