You hooked online video games, Internet and sinking ?




IT is 10pm and you know exactly where your children are. They are at home with you, and the last time you looked, they were on their computers engrossed in some game or another.

But does that mean they are fine?

As highlighted by The Star’s front-page story yesterday, that may not be so.

Governments, mental health practitioners, schools, NGOs and parents in many parts of the world – particularly in Asia – are worried about how many young people are hooked on video games and the Internet.

And when the two technologies merge to yield online gaming, we have a greater risk of passion turning into obsession.

Therefore, we should not be surprised by cases of gamers behaving badly when prevented from playing.

On Saturday, for example, two men fought at a cybercafe in Taman Bukit Serdang, Selangor, after one of them had refused to let the other use a computer.

The violence continued at a nearby restaurant, with others joining in, leading to both men being slashed with a parang. The police have since remanded two of the brawlers until tomorrow.

It is possible that this incident was more about uncontrollable egos and temper than it was about an uncontrollable urge to play computer games, but it does tell us that we ought to take a closer look at how our kids are affected by online gaming.

We need to acknowledge that there is a problem here that needs to be addressed systematically and holistically.

South Korea, which has extensive Internet connectivity, has long recognized that.
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Its National Information Society Agency has been conducting an annual survey on Internet addiction since 2004 and runs programmes that provide preventive education, counselling and expert training.

Singapore’s National Addictions Management Service provides outpatient treatment for gaming/internet addiction, describing it as “the extreme use of computer and video games that interferes with daily life”.

Gaming addiction in China had attracted so much attention that the authorities have set up military-style rehabilitation centres for young people.

And if some of us believe that our kids are merely going through a “phase” when they spend hours playing online games, it is useful to note that the American Psychiatric Association has identified Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition that requires further research.

“This reflects the scientific literature showing that persistent and recurrent use of Internet games, and a preoccupation with them, can result in clinically significant impairment or distress,” says the association.

Essentially, the association is saying there should be more clinical research and experience before it is ready to classify Internet Gaming Disorder as a formal mental disorder.

As it is, many Malaysian parents can share stories about how their children are so into playing online games that they miss meals, lack sleep, skip schoolwork, lie and steal, and ignore friends and family.

Such a troubling pattern does not have to be officially recognised as an illness to be treated as a problem.

It is time that the Government, schools, parents and the community work together to figure out how we can ensure that a hobby does not become a dangerous addiction.

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Sick gamers on the rise !


Parents seek help for addicted kids

Experts: Too much gaming has more serious effects than most people realise

For many Malaysians, it is no longer just a game.

Desperate parents trying to get their children to kick their addiction to computer games have started to seek professional help for them.

At least two psychiatrists interviewed by The Star confirmed that the issue is becoming a growing problem among children and young adults in Malaysia.

University Malaya Centre for Addiction Science deputy director Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said he had seen five patients, aged 14 to 26, for possible games addiction last year.

He revealed that the small number did not indicate the seriousness of the issue as many gamers were unaware of the problem they were having and thus did not seek treatment.

“It is potentially a growing problem and there is a need to create more awareness on this.

“Otherwise, it can become an illness when these gamers come in late for treatment,” he said yesterday.

Dr Muhammad Muhsin said a comprehensive database should be compiled so that medical experts could set up a plan to manage the problem.

He said the problem was indicative of a disorder if gamers start to behave compulsively when playing or tend to get into a fight over it.

“It can be an addiction if it affects their relationships with other people and disrupts their normal routine,” he added.

In one case, a 14-year-old boy went into a rage when his parents cut off the Internet subscription. He smashed the television set and the PC, Dr Muhammad Muhsin said.

“If gamers feel that they have used a lot of time or money to play the games, have difficulty resisting it and get upset easily, they should start seeking professional help.

“The reasons may be due to the person’s poor attachment to their parents, lack of parental supervision and peer pressure,” he said.

“They could be using the Internet to overcome their mood disturbances too.”

Hospital Penang consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Lai Fong Hwa said with improved Internet access and faster communication, more younger people were playing video games.

“There may be a concern that their social life may be affected and they will have problems developing social skills,” said Dr Lai.

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Blurred reality: experts say games addiction could affect the development of children’s social skills.

Scuffles a common sight at cyber cafes, say gamers

PETALING JAYA: With titles like World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm and Left 4 Dead, it is no surprise that video gamers are hooked for good.

However, these fans are adamant that they do not become aggressive despite the brutal nature of the game.

They said that last Saturday’s attack at a cyber cafe in Selangor, where a man slashed someone for hogging the computer, was an isolated case.

At that time, the victim was playing Dota (Defence of The Ancients), which involves two teams pitted against each other with the goal of destroying their opponent’s base.

“It’s irrational to fight or even stab someone over something like that,” said marketing executive Ivan Yong, 25, who is an avid computer gamer.

But he admitted that there were many short-tempered players and that scuffles were not uncommon among players at cyber cafes.

“Personally, I think gamers get violent when they invest too much time in their games. And they lose it when a teammate or opponent spoils it for them,” said Yong, who admitted to being less level-headed during his younger days.

A fellow gamer, who wished to be known only as Hammi, agreed with Yong.

“Yes, gamers tend to get violent sometimes. Sometimes they may not realise what they have done at that time,” said Hammi, 26.

“As a fellow gamer, I think it’s important to differentiate between reality and playing games,” she added.

Student Kae Jun, 17, conceded that many of them were addicted to the games.

“Some people play games so often that it is part of their routine. If they don’t get to play, they will get frustrated,” he said.

Businessman Joe Chee, 27, and student Min Jie, 18, who are both regular cyber cafe goers, said outbursts were common there.

“Some gamers tend to be violent and toxic. They let their emotions get the better of them,” said Chee.

“They would even curse their opponent’s family. Then a fight would break out,” Min said.

Both noted that cyber cafes that enforce a “no noise” policy tend to be less hostile.

“Those loud players have no consideration for others with their endless screaming. You see different types of people at a cyber cafe,” said Min.

All the gamers interviewed agreed that players should not let their love of the game get the better of them.

“It’s important to realise that every time you get upset, it drains your emotional energy.

“Losing your cool makes you tired,” said Chee.

Duo in cyber cafe brawl remanded for four days

PETALING JAYA: The two men who slashed a youth after fighting over a computer console at a cyber cafe have been remanded until Thursday.

According to Serdang OCPD Asst Comm Razimi Ahmad, the duo allegedly slashed a man in the neck with a parang for not letting one of them use the computer console.

During the incident at a cyber cafe in Taman Bukit Serdang at about 10pm on Saturday, the suspect got into an argument with an employee at the cyber cafe who was reportedly hogging a computer he wanted to play on.

They had a war of words and the suspect, who is in his 40s, left the place.

The suspect returned to the cyber cafe at about 11.30pm with a friend carrying a badminton racquet bag which contained a parang and a plank.

In a fit of rage, the two men attacked the employee with the parang and plank.

The cafe management managed to break up the scuffle and told the men to take their dispute outside before shuttering the place.

The trio reportedly continued their fight at a nearby restaurant, where police said the victim was slashed in the neck.

Witnesses claimed that about four friends of the victim came to his aid and slashed the suspect with his own parang before subduing his accomplice with the plank.

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Chinese student murdered by Canadian, suspect held, safety in the West?


Self-styled porn star Luka Rocco Magnotta has been arrested in a Berlin internet café, where he was identified while watching pornography and reading news stories about the global effort to track him down. His capture came as a relief to Montreal’s Chinese community, following the identification late last week of -born student Lin Jun, whom Magnotta allegedly murdered, dismembered and mailed parts of to political parties.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/video/embed

In China, the case seems set to deepen perceptions of foreign study as a risky prospect, following another in last year and two widely publicised incidents in April: the shootings of two Chinese students in Los Angeles, and an overtly racist attack on two others on a Sydney train. It remains unclear whether Lin’s killing was racially motivated or simply part of a sustained campaign of increasingly extreme attention seeking. Montreal police would not speculate on the matter, but suspicions have taken root among the local Chinese community. From The Globe and Mail:

The murder of Mr. Lin has provoked widespread shock and anger in China, where many believe the crime was racially motivated. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa has warned citizens living or travelling in Canada to “strengthen their personal security” in the wake of the deadly attack.

Mr. Lin’s death is the second killing of a Chinese student in Canada in just over a year, following last April’s murder of York University student Liu Qian, part of which was watched on Skype by her boyfriend back in China.

[…] A makeshift memorial to Mr. Lin sprang up in downtown Montreal in front of the statue of Norman Bethune, the Canadian surgeon regarded as a hero in China. The foot of the statue was covered with bouquets along with a note in English, French and Chinese that summed up the sense of relief over Mr. Magnotta’s arrest: “We got that beast.”

An earlier Globe and Mail report quoted the embassy’s warning, and outlined the case’s possible impact on Canadian universities’ ability to attract .

“The Chinese Embassy in Canada reminds Chinese citizens traveling in Canada, as well as students and the staff of Chinese organizations in Canada, to improve their self-protection [and] awareness, and to strengthen their personal security,” reads the final paragraph of the Embassy’s Chinese-language statement on Mr. Lin’s murder, which called condemned the “heinous criminal act.” A similar warning was posted on the webpage of the Chinese consulate in Montreal.

[…] “The impact of the case will be very bad on Canada,” Meng Xiaochao, the boyfriend who witnessed the attack on Ms. Liu, said in an interview. “Last year when Liu Qian’s case happened, many parents said they were no longer willing to send their children to Canada. Now here comes this other case.”

More than 50,000 Chinese students currently live and study in Canada. Like all foreign students, they pay higher tuition than their Canadian-born classmates, making them highly sought-after by cash-strapped universities. Another 242,000 Chinese came to Canada as tourists last year, a number the travel industry had been hoping would increase by as much as one-fifth this year.

An infographic at GOOD shows the most favoured destinations for Chinese students abroad, with Canada ranking third behind the US and UK. 85% of Chinese with net worths of more than one million US dollars reportedly plan to send their offspring to study overseas: those who have already done so include Bo Xilai, at least five of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, if one includes grandchildren, and noted crusader against foreign trash Yang Rui. The strong association of with wealth triggered a storm of resentment around the USC case in April. Some online reactions to Lin Jun’s murder displayed similar sentiments, though many others attacked such unsympathetic responses. Many expressed concern at the apparent dangers of journeys to the West, linking the Magnotta case to other bizarre and gruesome stories of recent weeks. From chinaSMACK

Porn star accused of killing gay ex-lover ate victim’s body parts, claim police

Video footage of the suspected Montreal murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta show him eating the body parts of his alleged victim, police said yesterday.

Montreal Police Commander Ian Lafrenière said that while it could not be confirmed, his officers suspected Magnotta of eating parts of the lover he is accused of killing and dismembering.

German prosecutors further revealed yesterday that they intended to extradite Magnotta to Canada following his surprise arrest in Berlin on Monday.

The pornographic-film actor and model, 29, is wanted on suspicion of murdering and dismembering his male Chinese student lover and sending his victim’s body parts to political parties in one of Canada’s most gruesome killings.

Magnotta fled from Montreal to Berlin via Paris. He was arrested in an internet café in the German capital on Monday morning. Yesterday he appeared before a judge and was remanded in custody until further notice.

Prosecutors said they were awaiting a request from Montreal Police for his extradition. A spokesman said the process could take “several days”.

Canadian police have confiscated a film of a man killing his victim with an ice pick. The video is thought to show Magnotta murdering his 33-year-old lover, Jun Lin. His motive is said to have been jealousy.

The killer is suspected of dismembering his victim’s body and posting parts of the corpse to Canada’s Conservative and Liberal parties.

Magnotta is nicknamed “psycho killer” because the soundtrack to the video allegedly showing the murder carried excerpts from the film American Psycho.

Canadian porn actor who killed man and mailed body parts arrested

Berlin: A Canadian porn actor suspected of murdering and dismembering a Chinese student and mailing his body parts to Canada’s top political parties was reading about himself on the internet when he was arrested on Monday at a cafe in Berlin.

Canadian investigators say 29-year-old Luka Magnotta’s obsessions led him to post internet videos of his killing kittens, then a man, and finally to his arrest at the cafe where he had spent two hours reading media coverage of himself.

An international manhunt set off by a case of internet gruesomeness that captured global attention ended quietly in the working-class Neukoelln district of the German capital when a cafe employee recognised Magnotta from a newspaper photo and flagged down a police car.

Confronted by seven officers, “He tried at first giving fake names but in the end he just said: ‘You got me’,” said police spokesman Guido Busch. “He didn’t resist.”

Magnotta is wanted by Canadian authorities on suspicion of killing Jun Lin, a 33-year-old man he dated, in Canada, and mailing his body parts to two of Canada’s top political parties before fleeing to Europe.

They say Magnotta filmed the murder of the Chinese student in his Montreal studio apartment and posted it online. The video shows a man with an ice pick stabbing another naked, bound male. He also dismembers the corpse and performs sexual acts with it in what police called a horrifying video.

The warning signs apparently were already there. For nearly two years animal activists had been looking for a man who tortured and killed cats and posted videos of his cruelty online. Since Lin’s murder, Montreal police have released a photo from the video which they say is of Magnotta.

In 2005, Magnotta was accused of sexually assaulting a woman, but the charges were dropped, the lawyer who represented him at the time said.

Magnotta is believed to have fled to France on May 26, based on evidence police found at his apartment and a blog he once posted about disappearing.

In Germany, surveillance camera footage of the internet cafe, obtained by the Associated Press, showed Magnotta casually walking in to the shop at noon local time, wearing jeans, a green hoodie sweater and sunglasses.

He briefly spoke to the internet cafe’s desk person, then walked off to his assigned computer with the number 25 where he would later be spotted reading the news about his case.

About two hours later, seven German police officers are seen walking into the shop, without any haste or arms.

On the camera footage, three police officers are seen accompanying the handcuffed Magnotta a couple of minutes after they first entered the cafe. Magnotta calmly walks alongside them, again wearing sunglasses.

In Germany, police spokeswoman Kerstin Ziesmer said Magnotta is being questioned, and will be brought before a judge behind closed doors.

“He says he is the wanted person,” she added, while cautioning that his identity must still be independently confirmed by German authorities.

Canada, like Europe, has no death penalty, making extradition more likely. Quebec bureau of prosecutions spokesman Rene Verret said it could still take a long time to get him back to Canada, but he said if Magnotta doesn’t contest the order he could be returned within a couple of weeks.

The case’s full horror emerged when a package containing a severed foot was opened at the ruling Conservative Party headquarters on May 29. That same day a hand was discovered at a postal facility, addressed to the Liberal Party of Canada. And a torso was found in a suitcase on a garbage dump in Montreal, outside Magnotta’s apartment building. Police in masks combed through the blood-soaked Montreal studio apartment last Wednesday.

As they unraveled his background, police discovered that Luka Magnotta changed his name from Eric Clinton Newman in 2006 and that he was born in Scarborough, Ontario. He is also known as Vladimir Romanov.

His mother, Anna Yourkin in Peterbourgh, Ontario, said she had no comment, apologised and hung up the phone.

Toronto lawyer Peter Scully said he represented Magnotta in a fraud case in 2004 and a sexual assault case in 2005.

He said Magnotta was charged with a dozen counts of fraud and impersonation for using a woman’s credit card to buy about $17,000 worth of goods, including a television, DVD player and several cellphones. He said he pleaded guilty to four fraud-related charges after serving 16 days in pre-trial custody. He received a nine-month conditional sentence and a year of probation.

Scully said Magnotta was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in 2005, but the prosecution decided to withdraw the charges. The woman’s father became so irate and threatening that Scully said he wrote a letter to police and the prosecutor, telling them about it.

Scully remembered Magnotta as soft spoken and polite.

“I’ve had lots of creepy characters and Eric did not stand out as one of them,” he said. Scully refers to his client by his previous name, Eric Newman.

But Nina Arsenault, a Toronto transsexual who said she had a relationship with Magnotta over a decade ago, described him as a drug user with a temper, who sometimes turned his anger on himself, hitting himself on the head, and other parts of his body.

While Magnotta described himself in an online video interview with a site called “Naked News” as a stripper and male escort, Lin, who was from Wuhan, China, was registered as an undergraduate in the engineering department and computer science at Concordia University in Montreal. Police have confirmed Magnotta is a porn actor and that he and Jun had a relationship.

Zoya De Frias Lakhany, 21, a fellow Concordia student in some of Lin’s classes, said he was an excellent student who was shy and humble. She said she cried all weekend.

“He was happy here, he would take pictures of the snow and post them,” she recalled. “He was sweet, never complained and smiled all the time.”

Montreal Police Cmdr Ian Lafreniere said investigators are extremely relieved and pleased about the arrest.

“We said from the beginning that the web has been used to glorify himself and we believe the web brought him down,” said Lafreniere. “He was recognised because his photo was everywhere.”

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Apr 25, 2012

A father’s lament: The real world is not a game!


Learning should be fun, but that doesn’t mean we should be trying to hook kids into playing computer games that just happen to teach.

There was something about the Mama Bear family tech conference a week ago that creeped me out. I am the father of a 5-year-old boy, and perhaps a third of the people at this conference were trying to build apps for him. All the apps were well-intentioned. All were, at some level, educational.

Still, all the apps felt wrong to me. I wanted my son to have nothing to do with any of them.

I’ve been trying to understand why these educational apps were getting under my skin to this extent. It’s not like I’m anti-technology when it comes to my child. He plays Angry Birds. We watch TV (together). He’s a child of technology; how could he live in my house and not be?

A psychiatrist friend, listening to me rant about how these apps are trying to wilt my son’s brain, sympathized, but not completely. Yes, he said, computer games can be addictive. In fact, in his opinion, teaching kids to expect the world to work like a computer game deprives them of learning real-world life skills.

But, he said, a truly good educational app can be effective like a book, or a teacher. You can’t stick everything that pops up on a kid’s iPad into the “evil” category.

So where are the really good apps?

The Vinci Tab II is an Android tablet preloaded with educational software for kids up to 5 years old.

(Credit: Rafe Needleman/CNET)

A few days ago, I handed my son a Vinci tablet to try out. This is another well-intentioned product for young children. It comes with pre-installed educational games carefully geared to kids up to about my son’s age (actually he’s a little old for it, but I occasionally make him earn his keep as a product reviewer).

I had the same feeling of foreboding about this product as I did about many children’s apps I see. The Vinci reinforced this, unfortunately. While the game did in fact have educational payloads, the mechanics were, for the most part, dumb. How does pressing a button at exactly the right time to jump over a beach ball on-screen teach anything but how to operate a game, no matter what the game says it’s supposed to be about?

The boy liked the tablet and its apps. But it’s how he liked them that bothered me. The software sucked him in, and whatever lessons it tried to teach him were obstacles that seemed about as interesting as the flatly drawn beach balls. The real red flag came when I told my boy it was time to put the tablet down. He was so dialed in to the game mechanics that he panicked. He wasn’t in learning mode, he was in addiction mode.

Did he retain the factoids and basic math and spelling skills he learned while playing? I think so. But I don’t want him learning this way.

There is hope, though.

On the DIY app, kids snap pictures of their projects. On the Web site, shown, family and friends can award badges.

(Credit: Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET)

Yesterday, I read about the launch of DIY, a site and app for kids that’s supposed to be a social destination for them to share their creative projects. They upload photos of stuff they’ve designed, built, written, or drawn, and then their friends and family members can award them badges.

Something about this site appealed to me as a father. Why was it better than all the learning games, with their impressive educational pedigrees? I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I called up DIY’s CEO, Zach Klein (formerly of Vimeo). Klein isn’t a father himself, but he understands the child’s mind. In a few words he crystalized for me what I find distasteful about most kids’ programming.

“They are gravity-fed,” he says. “There’s a path of least resistance to get to the next screen.” The player’s job is to find that path, he says. Games like this “infantilize children.”

The real world doesn’t work like this. There are no shortcuts in life. You don’t get a big reward for each tiny action. Real rewards take real work.

DIY, he says, “gives children more responsibility than they are used to, not less.” And the rewards aren’t programmed. They come from peers and family. “We want kids to feel satisfaction, but we’re suggesting it will take time and craft and love to earn it.”

DIY is in a very early stage, and is too basic at the moment. In the interest of protecting kids, there’s no personal information anywhere on the system; kids’ identities are masked behind handles, and if a family member awards a kid a sticker, the kid can’t see who it came from. But the thinking of DIY is right, at least to me: Encourage kids to engage with the real world. Use social-networking mechanics to reinforce it.

I loaded the DIY app on to my old iPhone 3G. I plan to let my boy use the app on this device without supervision. It’s the first app I’ve seen that passes that test for me. I’m not sure he’ll use it, but I bet he will. And I like it, because it’s an accessory to his physical world, not a replacement for it.

by by  Rafe Needleman

Rafe reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business. Feeling lucky? Send pitches to rafe@cnet.com. And watch Rafe’s tech issues podcast, Reporters’ Roundtable.

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Cyber addicts, angry mum sets up ‘rehab’ centre for you!


KUALA LUMPUR: She was furious to find her son at a cybercafe, engrossed in his game, when he was supposed to be at rugby practice in school.

But what shocked Zaridah Abu Zarin, 39, even more was seeing children, some as young as four, completely absorbed in playing online games.

 Sunday matinee: Zaridah (left) and Wong (right) watching a movie with youths at their centre in Bandar Sri Damansara Sunday.

Moved by what she saw, Zaridah decided to set up a centre with her business partner, Michelle Wong, to help youths and children overcome their addiction to Internet games for free.

“There were also four children, squeezing in one seat, just so that they could share the computer in the cybercafe,” said the KidQ daycare centre director at Bandar Sri Damansara here.

Wong, who is also a director at KidQ, said the centre, named “U”th Community Centre, that started yesterday, would be a place for children to participate in enjoyable and productive activities.

“There’s more  meaning to life than going to the cybercafe. One of our immediate steps is to conduct an intervention for children addicted to the Internet at cybercafes.

“Since we run a daycare centre, we have the facilities to allow youths and children to conduct activities,” said the 47-year-old.

Wong said she and Zaridah would ask the children about their interests and match them with suitable activities.

“With our background in childcare,k we can also find professionals to coach them and help them with job placements in future,” she said.

Zaridah said if things went well, they would like to expand the centre to reach out to children in different areas.

By YUEN MEIKENG meikeng@thestar.com.my

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