PUBG Ban: Firefighting or Policy-making?

When I heard about the government’s decision to ban PUBG, I was not sure whether to be amused or shocked.

Kids’ behaviour needs to be regulated. There can be no two ways about it. But is banning a video game the best way to do so? When I heard about the government’s decision to ban PUBG, I was not sure whether to be amused or shocked. I realised I was indignant, not because I play the game or want to play it, but just because banning a video game seems to be a very amateur way of regulating behaviour amongst teenagers.

The urge to push back against forced constrictions is huge, especially when it comes to youngsters. Banning children from engaging in an activity that is a major part of their developmental stage makes the activity all the more enticing, which in turn, forces the children to switch to illegal approaches to pursue that activity. The intention behind banning this game is undoubtedly noble, namely, to regulate the behaviour of youngsters and not let them fall into the trap of addiction, and the concerned authorities are surely aware of the fact that the virtual world is a sea out there, consisting of both harmful as well as necessary interactions. In this virtual world, do they plan to keep banning everything that is apparently harmful on the internet? Is this “solution” even plausible?

To my understanding, there are two main reasons for banning PUBG. The first one is that of addiction. When we look at the constantly increasing rate of substance abuse in Kashmir, can we honestly say that PUBG is a serious concern? We see kids as young as ten smoking on street corners and it is far more widespread and easily accessible than PUBG can ever be. Is it therefore not more important to ban cigarettes than a game?  

The second reason is that it subjects children to a world of virtual violence. Again, it seems like a cruel joke to say that the mental health of children in Kashmir will suffer if they are subjected to virtual violence. Every child in Kashmir can rattle off the names of kids of an eighteen month old kid, to pre-teens and teenagers being affected by the brutal vortex of violence spinning around us. 

Claiming that a child born and brought up in Kashmir suffers mentally because of a video game seems ironic. What amuses me the most is that our government has banned this ‘harmful’ game, considering it to be a distraction among children. What has skipped their notice is the fact that living in a place full of violence and conflict, children are already under a bundle of constraints in terms of their lifestyle. Snatching away their freedom to engage in an online game would serve no purpose. I pondered upon the fact of whether PUBG or pellets are a greater threat to the lives of youngsters. Which of the two should be banned?  When it comes to the regulation of all the things that seem to be harmful and disrupt the balance of our society, examples from around the world suggest that more than the ban of a particular thing, its regulated use has been more effective.

Regulating the activities of a child is a duty that primarily falls upon his/her family and teachers. Parents should focus on regulating the behaviour of their children in a much more effective and responsible way. Unable to achieve this necessary regulation over the life of a child, a parent cannot expect the government to completely remove a particular game from the scene. How many games or seemingly ‘harmful’ activities will they continue to ban? This leads to the curtailment of a very basic right that each child possesses. In this case; the curtailment of the right to play a game online, which is supposedly harmful only because a parent is not able to regulate the activities of his/ her child. 

In my opinion, banning this game will not improve the mental health of children in Kashmir, nor will it have any significant impact on the declining mental health of youngsters. On the contrary, those who wish to play this game have already figured out ways to do so. It falls upon the parents, teachers and society in general to inculcate values in kids and supervise their behaviour in order to prevent such issues from blowing out of proportion. If banning a harmful commodity would eradicate it, we would not be witnessing such a dramatic increase in drug addiction in Kashmir.

Maryam Mir is a  class 11th  at DPS, Srinagar