When does a 12-year-old’s fascination with video games become an addiction? Perhaps it never does, but only looks like that to over-anxious parents. Psychologist Douglas Gentile was inclined to take that view before conducting research on the subject. It turned out he was wrong.

To get at gaming addiction, Gentile adapted diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling into a series of questions about video game use. The questions became part of a national survey of 1178 youngsters aged 8 to 18. Gamers were deemed “pathological” if they reported at least six of the 11 symptoms.

“Symptoms included spending increasing amounts of time and money on video games to feel the same level of excitement; irritability or restlessness when play is scaled back; escaping problems through play; skipping chores or homework to spend more time at the controller; lying about the length of playing time; and stealing games or money to play more,” reports the Washington Post.

Overall, 8.5 per cent of the sample qualified as "pathological gamers" — four times as many boys as girls. And since the study indicated that 88 per cent, or 45 million, American children aged 8 to 18 played video games, there could be more than 3 million young gaming addicts in the country. The lack of balance in these kids’ lives was linked with damage in several areas. They did worse in school, they felt addicted and they were twice as likely to report attention disorders.

But other experts are not convinced that kids become addicted in a clinical sense.

"I think kids use this just the way kids watch television, the way kids now use their cellphones," said Michael Brody, chairman of the media committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. "They do it to relieve their anxiety and depression. It's all a matter of balance."

Oh, is that all? Just to relieve anxiety and depression. No worries then, mum and dad; the kids will find their own balance of pathologies… ~ Washington Post, April 20

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet