The debate about the effects of video gaming on young minds
continues, fed by new studies that find links with depression. There ensues the
usual argument over causality (Did excessive gaming cause depression? Or do
mentally unstable teens spend more time on gaming?) with the industry asking, “Why
pick on us?”

Here are the latest results:

The results are discouraging. The latest
study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics
, followed 3,000 students
in the third, fourth, seventh and eighth grades in Singapore. Children who were
more impulsive and less comfortable with other children spent more time playing
video games, the study found. Two years later, these heavy gamers, who played
an average of 31 hours a week, compared with 19 hours a week for other
students, were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and social
phobias. They were also more likely to see their grades in school drop and have
worse relationships with their parents.

The findings come on the heels of another study, released last fall, that
followed more than 1,000 healthy Chinese teenagers ages 13 to 18. Those who
used the Internet excessively were more than twice as likely as the others to
be depressed nine months later; most of the Internet use was for video games,
the researchers said. That study was
published in The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine
.

Douglas A. Gentile, a psychology professor at Iowa State
University who did the first study, makes a subtle distinction. He does not say
that video games cause depression; rather, that “pathological gaming” tends to
go with a range of mental health problems and contributes to them —
independently.

In any case he says that parents should regulate their
children’s use of video games and trust their instincts on what constitutes
excessive use — something the gaming industry appears to agree on.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet