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Addicted to Video Games

Once a joke of exasperated parents, video game addiction is no longer a myth – it is scientifically proven. A recent study from Iowa State University found that nearly one in ten children are addicted to video games.
The study used a national Harris Poll survey of 1,178 youths between the ages of 8 and 18 to document video game play habits. The study’s author, psychology professor Douglas Gentile, then compared these habits to the 11 symptoms established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for pathological gambling. Kids who exhibited six or more of these symptoms – 8.5 percent of the poll participants – were deemed to be addicted.

Pathological gamers were found to play on average 24 hours a week, twice as much as casual gamers. The study also found that addicted children were more likely to have health problems, trouble in school, and to lie and steal to support their habit. Gentile has future plans to investigate deeper into who is at risk of addiction, and how other conditions, like depression, may be related.

Even though the conclusions are startling, they certainly don’t indicate that average video gamers are at risk. A pathological player is very different from someone who just plays a lot. Addictive playing impairs a child’s ability to function in other non-game related activities.

If you are worried about how much time your child spends playing video games, ask yourself:

  • Is he irritable or restless when not in front of a screen?
  • Does he skip chores or homework to play?
  • Does he try to hide the fact that he’s playing or lie about how much time he spends playing?
To help your child avoid too much time spent playing video games:
  • Don’t allow a video game system in your child’s bedroom. Addicted gamers are more likely to have this kind of set-up. Not only do they have constant access to their games, but you can’t monitor what they are playing or for how long.
  • Discourage online multi-player games that require an enormous time commitment. Similarly, games designed for competition – Halo 2, CouterStrike, World of Warcraft – can take many hours of game play to achieve a certain level of proficiency.
  • Limit overall screen time to one to two hours a day as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If they have to choose between TV, Internet, or video games, there’s a good possibility that video game time will be reduced.

If gaming is balanced with homework, physical play, and other activities, there is no need to worry – video games can be a stimulating and challenging pastime. As with almost everything else, it’s when they are no longer used in a balanced way that serious problems can arise.

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