Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Editors' Forum | Addiction to social media, violent video games pushing children to suicide

Published:Sunday | September 8, 2019 | 12:35 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter
Thomas

With children under 10 years old among those committing suicide, founder of Choose Life International, Dr Donovan Thomas, is calling on parents to be very vigilant of their children’s social-media usage.

Apart from the addiction to social media, Thomas, a suicidologist, finds that some children have become so addicted to violent video games that they have shut themselves off from the real world and persons around them.

“We have found that some young people become so overwhelmed and so driven to play these games for up to eight, six, 10 hours a day, that their interest in life decreases. They stop going to school, they become hopeless, they don’t eat, they don’t bathe, and when they are bombarded with all this violence, they sometimes lose hope and they want to kill themselves,” he shared at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed on September 10.

“I have had a few, probably six to eight in the last year, whose parents have brought them in because they are just so taken by not just the games that are outrightly promoting suicide, but they are being captured by social media.”

Last year, parents were warned to monitor their children’s Internet usage after several kid shows were supporting the Momo Challenge. Through this challenge, children were explicitly instructed on how to commit suicide.

Thomas noted that children are influenced by social media in several ways to commit suicide.

‘PARENTAL CONNECT AND SUICIDALITY’

“Sometimes people share about their own pain and hurt on social media and on the Internet and whatever platforms they are on, and they attract like persons. Sometimes they encourage each other and say, ‘You know what, let’s agree when we are going to do it. Let us agree on our method’. When they are exposed like that, they get persons who are of like mind who encourage them to do it,” he explained.

In order to raise awareness, the topic ‘Parental Connect and Suicidality’ will be discussed at Choose Life International World Suicide Prevention Day Seminar, which will be hosted on September 10 and 13.

“When I just started studying this topic some 30 years ago, the police statistics department had a category 0-15, but now they have a category 0-10, because we are seeing children under 10 years old taking their own life,” said Thomas.

“That was one of the things that attracted my interest when I was with Youth for Christ, the number of teenagers at risk to suicide, and that is why I decided to explore this topic. I noticed that one in four of the teenagers that I seriously interviewed thought about taking their own lives.”

According to police statistics, two children under 10 years killed themselves in 2016 and one in 2018.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com