On Sunday night, Channel Nine's 60 Minutes ran a story titled 'Won't Stop, Can't Stop'. "While you're watching 60 Minutes, chances are children all over the country are glued to different screens, playing video games," reporter Tara Brown opened the story with.
The program quickly ventured into the success of Fortnite, saying "it and games like it are so good" that children "are becoming addicted". And almost immediately, fans began offering their take online.
The first segment began by touching on two children, Logan and Sam, who had retreated into video games. It then introduced psychologist Dr Tanveer Ahmed and neuroscience strategist Jill Sweatman warning about the effects of video games on developing brains, with Dr Ahmed saying "in psychological terms, this is an emergency".
"It's an element that has been so magnificently and exquisitely crafted to engage these children - and adults - more and more and more, and that's where it's insidious," Jill Sweatman said. "If so much time is devoted to just entertainment, under the auspices, the control of game designers, over a long period of time what are we really losing? Those brain cells can't be gotten back in later life."
Both Dr Ahmed and Jill Sweatman have been quoted in the past talking about video game addiction, both through newspapers and as experts in media reports. Sweatman is a member of the board of the Network for Internet Investigation and Research Australia, a non-profit whose members and founder have aired warnings in the past about internet-related disorders and addictions.
It was the background of the parents, however, that users first started criticising on Facebook and social media. Conservative columnist Rita Panahi, not traditionally considered the biggest advocate of video games, questioned how one of the families' could have allowed their child to avoid school for two years. Users also questioned the program's lack of nuance in dealing with the families' situations, which included a divorce and the impact of a family as the mother battled breast cancer.
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) September 2, 2018
Kid hasn't gone to school for 2 years. Yet you show a game which has just completed a year. A game which is the most trending game of all time. No wonder #60mins is trending in Sydney. #fakeconcern #badparenting
— Vir (@Simranvir) September 2, 2018
So one kid is getting boundaries delivered to him by mum’s boyfriend while the other watched his mum go through breast cancer. They are screaming for attention from disengaged parents who they’ve lost or come close to losing. It’s so, so sad. #60Mins
— Rachael Lonergan (@RachaelHasIdeas) September 2, 2018
#60Mins....Jesus it's such a serious issue, how these parents manage to get it this far. This is just shocking. What is wrong with out society?
— Marcus Foo???????? (@AStrongerOZ) September 2, 2018
- Games are so good these days kids don’t want to stop.
- Parents give kids TVs and consoles at the foot of their bed.
- Bad life events send kids toward games as coping mechanism.
- Parents seem to miss that this is happening and avoid parenting.
- Blame games.#60Mins
— Seamus Byrne (@seamus) September 2, 2018
#60mins One might ask the question: How is a kid allowed to not go to school for 2 years and stay at home playing video game??
— Moosy (@CdvNat) September 2, 2018
Games are always the issues, it’s the equivalent of blaming the guns instead of the horrible decisions behind the wielder. Be a good parent, talk to your kids, engage with them...don’t let them become horrible and unpleasant people to be with #60Mins
— MrGeneralism (@OffendedPugDog) September 2, 2018
— D O T T Y (@speckii_x) September 2, 2018
The program also didn't make any mention of parental controls available on consoles and modern platforms, which industry advocates IGEA pointed out following the program's airing. Users also took to 60 Minutes's Facebook page to ask why there wasn't more emphasis on treatment, options and solutions.
— IGEA (@igea) September 2, 2018
Some users expressed sympathy for the parents, however, noting the difficulty of the situation and their desire to help their children in any way possible. Other parents also shared their own experiences about limiting their children's screen time, and - like the program - noted that it could be difficult to find professional help in similar circumstances.
The 60 Minutes report and story can be viewed here.
If your family or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, the Kids Helpline is available 24/7 online and over the phone for anyone aged between 5 and 25, while Lifeline is a resource for anyone in need of crisis support. The Australian Psychological Society also has a database of available psychologists nationwide here.