One in 10 young gamers addicted

21 Apr 2009

The term ‘addiction’ is often used in reference to kids and video games, but the first-ever comprehensive study to look at pathological video-gaming among children and teenagers has just been released by Iowa State University in the US. It found that almost one in 10 of the 1,178 youths polled showed genuine symptoms of addiction.

Psychology professor Douglas Gentile’s paper, titled ‘Pathological Video Game Use among Youth 8 to 18: A National Study’, looked at behaviours as defined by standards established for pathological gambling, and found that 8.5pc of children questioned were playing video games to the point that it impacted negatively on their school, family and social life.

Gentile told “What we mean by pathological use is that something someone is doing – in this case, playing video games – is damaging to their functioning.

“It’s not simply doing it a lot. It has to harm functioning in multiple ways.”

The study found that pathological gamers spent twice as much time playing as non-pathological gamers, and found they had performed worse in schoolwork, as well as having problems concentrating.

Insofar as the study approached addictive gaming by comparing it to pathological gambling, gameplay behaviour was measured to see if it dominated the child’s life, either by time spent playing or time spent thinking about gaming.

It also looked at the concept of tolerance, with the child or teen needing more time spent gaming to get the same ‘high’, and withdrawal symptoms, where the gamer had physical or emotional responses when denied access to his or her video games.

The study found that while 11.9pc of boys were classified as pathological gamers, only 2.9pc of girls were, and girls were more likely to have tried decreasing the amount of time they spent gaming.

Interestingly, the study also found that 22pc of 8-11 year-olds and 41pc of 12-14 year-olds owned M-rated or mature-rated games.

By Marie Boran