Viet Nam News
Beating an obsession with online games takes time, patience and, most importantly, loving and understanding teachers. Gia Lộc reports.
Can you imagine living without a smartphone, tablet or laptop if you are learning in a strictly disciplined environment?
Many young people who have become seriously addicted to online games are doing just that at the Research Institute for Vovinam and Sport Development (IVS) boarding school in HCM City and Bắc Ninh Province in the Red River Delta.
Initially, the students, aged 13 to 25, were uncomfortable without their devices, but within one or two months they became emotionally attached to IVS because of their teachers.
Prior to being sent to the boarding school by their parents, some of the students had been disruptive and even violent.
As internet use has become more widespread in the country, addiction to games has risen dramatically.
In 2014, internet use increased threefold compared to 2005, according to the Việt Nam Digital Landscape 2015 annual report from the Moore Online Solution and Development Corporation.
Among online activities, playing games was the ninth-ranked activity of internet users aged 15 to 24, according to the report.
Việt Nam ranked sixth in Asia in the percentage (52 per cent) of smartphone users. The number of 3G subscriptions also rose from 11.9 per cent in 2012 to 21.4 per cent last year.
Playing games on smartphones was among the top five activities of users online in the country.
Giving up games
Less than 11 months ago, a 23-year-old man from a southeastern province, now a student at IVS, was playing online games for more than 10 hours a day.
“First, I played games during my free time only, and then gradually I became more absorbed when I became a powerful leader in the virtual world,” said the man, a native of Bình Phước Province.
To reach the status of such a powerful leader, he had to spend a lot of time and money on games. As a result, he ended up skipping classes at university.
Not only did he become pale and thin, he also began to get poor marks at school.
His parents, worried about his future, sent him to the IVS branch in HCM City’s Thủ Đức District, which opened last year. The main school in the northern province of Bắc Ninh opened nine years ago.
“In the beginning, I was uncomfortable and sought every way to get out,” the young man said.
However, he doesn’t want to leave now. He studies English, yoga, life skills and sports at IVS.
“Studying takes most of my time. I don’t have free time to play games,” he said. “This environment is good for me.”
Yogic cure: Students practise yoga as they are treated for online game addiction at the IVS boarding school in HCM City’s Thủ Đức District. —VNS Photo Gia Lộc
Another young man, from the central city of Đà Nẵng, was also sent to IVS because of his obsessive playing of online games, which affected his school work.
“I have stayed at IVS for three months. It has been a joyful time,” the 20-year-old said. “I no longer have a thirst to play games. This is a good environment for me to change my lifestyle.”
The activity of playing online games stimulates the appetite for more playing, according to Đặng Lê Anh, deputy head of IVS.
“It’s very important to help them escape from the virtual world and enjoy the real world,” he said.
The students take part in physical activities and live in a highly disciplined military-like environment.
“Day by day, they recognise that games are useless and the real world is more interesting,” Anh said.
When the school was set up in 2007 in Bắc Ninh, it aimed to help disruptive students who often fell through the cracks of the school system.
Anh said that up to 70 per cent of the students have shown talent in a certain sport, music or art.
“If they are educated in a suitable environment, they can change and their natural aptitudes can develop,” he said.
At the school, students are taught both academic knowledge and Vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art that emphasises ethics, loyalty, respect, music, arts and other sports.
They also learn about suitable careers and how to plan for a job.
Trịnh Phú Sơn, who teaches literature and life skills, and is a manager of a dormitory, said that educating the students, including those who are “naughty and lazy or violent” was the responsibility of teachers.
“Teachers who have an open heart can successfully educate these students,” Sơn said, adding that the teachers should not judge the students too harshly.
“We should study the causes for their behaviour and the family circumstances of each student to try to understand them. And then develop a way to educate them,” he said.
To have a deeper understanding of the students, Sơn and his colleagues live with students at the school’s dormitory.
This helps teachers and students become close, and as a result students share their feelings more easily.
“Life skills are taught every day in this real environment,” Sơn said, adding that the students also learn how to become more independent.
A 14-year-old boy, a native of Nha Trang from the central coastal province of Khánh Hòa, is now a student at IVS in HCM City.
Prior to entering the school, the boy often left home for three or four days at a time, and wanted to drop out of school.
Today, he feels loved by teachers and staff who live at the school’s dormitory.
“I don’t want to drop out of school now,” he said. VNS