Video Gaming and Addiction

     If you have a child in your life who plays video games, you may be concerned if that child seems out of balance - spending too much time and energy in gaming while other areas of life are neglected.  Yours is a legitimate concern. There are 45 million children between the ages of 8 and 18 in the United States and 88 percent of them play video games. A study done by researcher Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and director of research at the nonprofit National Institute on Media and the Family reported that 8.5 percent of American youths age 8 to 18 who play video games show multiple signs of behavioral addiction.  In addition, four times as many boys as girls were considered pathological gamers.

     Gentile adapted diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling into a series of questions about video game use, which became part of a 2007 Harris Poll of 1,178 children and teens.  If the gamers reported at least six of the eleven symtoms the gamers were deemed pathological.   Several symptoms were identified.  They included:  spending increasing amounts of time and money on video games to feel the same level of excitement, escaping problems by playing video games, lying about the length of playing time, irritability or restlessness when game play is scaled back, skipping chores or homework to spend more time playing games, stealing games or money to play more and escaping problems through playing video games.

   Gentile found that children considered pathological gamers had trouble paying attention in class, did worse in school and reported feeling "addicted".   In addition, they were found to be twice as likely to report ADD (attention-deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention-deficit  hyperactivity disorder)

     Not everyone agrees with Gentile's findings.  Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry believes, "I think kids use this just the way kids watch television, the way kids now use their cellphones.  They do it to relieve their anxiety and depression. It's all a matter of balance."

     The key word here is "balance".  According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, all screen time, including computer and video games but also television should not exceed one to two hours  day of "quality programming."  If a child you love is exhibiting the smptoms described above or is struggling, without success, to cut back gaming time, that child may need help through therapy to lead a more balanced life.