Andrew Fishman LCSW

Video Game Addiction

The argument against video game addiction, many researchers are skeptical that video games are truly "addictive.".

Updated July 3, 2023 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

  • What Is Video Game Addiction?
  • Find a therapist near me
  • Video games have many benefits for gamers.
  • Research on gaming disorder—aka video game addiction—is flawed and not sufficiently conclusive.
  • Because video games are less socially acceptable, they may be unfairly targeted.
  • There are other explanations for many reports of video game addiction, including autism, ADHD, and depression.

This is half of a pair of articles that highlight the evidence for and against the existence of video game addiction . Read the counter-argument here .

For decades, psychologists, parents, and gamers have asserted that video games can be addictive. Although video games seem to influence enthusiasts differently from those of other hobbies, there is insufficient empirical evidence to designate them as an actual addiction . Further, video games are a fun and socially beneficial activity for many, so labeling them as addictive would prevent many from accessing these benefits.

For example, video games connect lonely or introverted people with one another , relieve stress , and even help people explore their own identities . Some therefore argue that, because of video games’ benefits and popularity, gaming addiction should not be considered an official diagnosis until overwhelming evidence supports this assertion.

Flawed Research

Several studies have concluded that gaming disorder qualifies as an addiction. Because addictions share several characteristics, researchers created theoretical criteria that a gamer must meet to have the diagnosis. For example, people with addictions suffer consequences in various aspects of their life and struggle to quit without help. This is true regardless of the substance.

Based on the assumption that people with video game addiction must be affected similarly, researchers have surveyed gamers on similar criteria to determine what percent have an addiction. These include questions such as, “How often do you find it difficult to stop gaming?” and “Have you deceived a family member, significant other, employer, or therapist regarding the amount of time spent engaging in gaming activities?”

Although questions like these may reasonably assess someone’s behavior, researchers use too many different questionnaires to be compared cleanly. Even when researchers use the same survey, they sometimes interpret the results differently.

In other words, someone would need to answer “Yes” to six of the eleven Gaming Addiction Screening questions to be considered addicted. They would need to respond “Sometimes” or “Often” to five or more of the ten questions in the Ten Item Internet Gaming Disorder Test to qualify. If the same person took both surveys, one survey might conclude that they had an addiction and the other might not. Further, some studies only measure how many hours per week a person spends gaming instead of targeting the effect games have on their functioning.

This has resulted in wildly different estimates of gaming addiction’s prevalence. It is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from these data until researchers use standardized measures.

It is also very difficult to estimate one’s actual screen time each week. One meta-analysis of the research found that in 95 percent of studies, participants did not accurately report how much time they spend on screens . This calls into question all studies which rely on participants’ subjective estimates of how they use their time because they have based their conclusions on a statistic that is likely inaccurate.

Why Not Other Hobbies?

Other critics of the diagnosis point out that gaming has been unfairly targeted and pathologized. A person who plays golf instead of spending time with family is inconsiderate. A person who plays video games instead of spending time with family is addicted.

This demonstrates a clear bias . Society considers video games a waste of time, so an enthusiastic gamer is criticized more harshly than someone with a more acceptable hobby.

What Else Might Account for Excessive Gaming

Many of my clients report that they feel addicted to technology. When I continue the assessment process, many report that they were previously diagnosed with autism or ADHD . This complicates the diagnostic process because many people with these disorders already struggle to stop scrolling through social media or playing video games.

Most of us have looked up from our phones and realized that half an hour or more had suddenly passed. The hypnotic “flow” which we experienced blinded us to the passage of time. Autistic people* and those with ADHD are especially susceptible to this phenomenon. So if, for example, a person with ADHD finds it particularly difficult to turn off a game, does that person have an addiction or is it simply how this kind of stimulus affects those with ADHD?

computer games addiction essay

Some research has found that heavy gamers have reduced gray matter in areas of the brain associated with attention , impulse control. However, these studies do not sufficiently demonstrate that gaming caused the differences, only that they are associated. Correlation is not causation. Some studies even show that brain scans for people with ADHD look remarkably similar to scans of those with gaming disorder , even after treatment.

One researcher pointed out this conundrum by relating it to depression . “We would not diagnose depressed individuals with hypersomnia with a comorbid ‘bed addiction.’” In other words, someone with depression might stay in bed for days, but this does not mean that they are addicted to the bed. In the same way, an autistic person or someone with depression or ADHD might appear to be addicted to video games even when they are not. In short, many diagnosed with gaming disorder may simply be autistic or have ADHD.

It is possible that video games are addictive. However, the current body of research is too flawed to state decisively that the negative consequences outweigh the benefits the games afford players. It is premature to consider gaming disorder to be an official addiction.

*Although many refer to autistic people as “people with autism” or “people with autism spectrum disorders,” almost 90 percent of autistic adults prefer “autistic person.” This language is used here to respect that preference.

Bean, A. M., Nielsen, R. K. L., van Rooij, A. J., & Ferguson, C. J. (2017). Video game addiction: The push to pathologize video games. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 48 (5). Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-29288-001

Diament, M. (2022, December 2). 'Autistic' or 'person with autism'? It depends. Disability Scoop. https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2022/12/02/autistic-or-person-with-auti…

Fishman, A. (2019, January 22). Video games are social spaces. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/video-game-health/201901/video-…

Fishman, A. (2022, November 7). Why it's so hard to walk away from a video game. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/video-game-health/202211/why-it…

Fishman, A. (2023, February 20). How gamers use video games to explore their gender identity. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/video-game-health/202302/how-…

Gentile, D. (n.d.) Gaming Addiction Screening. University of California, Santa Cruz. https://caps.ucsc.edu/pdf/gaming-addiction-screening.pdf

Han, D.H., Bae, S., Hong, J., Kim, S.M., Son, Y.D., & Renshaw, P. (2019). Resting-state fMRI study of ADHD and Internet Gaming Disorder. Journal of Attention Disorders, 25 (8). Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1087054719883022

Király, O., Bőthe, B., Ramos-Díaz, J., Rahimi-Movaghar, A., Lukavska, K., Hrabec, O., Miovsky, M., Billieux, J., Deleuze, J., Nuyens, F., Karila, L.M., Griffiths, M.D., Nagygyörgy, K., Urbán, R., Potenza, M., King, D.L., Rumpf, H., Carragher, N., Lilly, E., & Demetrovics, Z. (2019). Ten-Item Internet Gaming Disorder Test (IGDT-10): Measurement invariance and cross-cultural validation across seven language-based samples. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33 (1). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328615597_Ten-Item_Internet_Ga…

Parry, D.A., Davidson, B.I., Sewall, C.J.R., Fisher, J.T., Mieczkowski, H., & Quintana, D.S. (2021). Nature Human Behavior, 5 . Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01117-5

van Rooij, A.J., Ferguson, C., Carras, M.C. Kardefelt-Winther, D., Shi, J., Aarseth, E., Bean, A., Bergmark, K.H., Brus, A., Coulson, M., Deleuze, J., Dullur, P., Dunkels, E., Edman, J., Elson, M., Etchells, P.J., Fiskaali, A., Granic, I., Jansz, J...& Przybylski, A.K. (2018). A weak scientific basis for gaming disorder: Let us err on the side of caution. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7 (1) Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323542721_A_weak_scientific_ba…

van Rooij, A.J., Schoenmakers, T., van den Eijnden, R.J.J.M., Vermulst, A.A., & van de Mheen, D. (2012). Video Game Addiction Test: Validity and psychometric characteristics. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15 (9). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230696095_Video_Game_Addiction…

Andrew Fishman LCSW

Andrew Fishman is a licensed social worker in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a lifelong gamer who works with clients to understand the impact video games have had on their mental health.

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Online Video Games Addiction Essay

Online video games have already become an essential component of popular culture. A variety of technological products is actively used to train pilots and other safety occupations for better professional skills. Until recently, there was no specific knowledge or empirical evidence with regard to the effect video games may produce on users’ skills. It appears, however, that video games can become a relevant source of better practical knowledge and abilities which young users are to use in the practice. Unfortunately, there is no sufficient information that could unilaterally confirm the positive nature of video games when used by users in practical performance, but the results of recent researches suggest that video games provide unlimited opportunities for the development of better practical skills and avoiding major mistakes (Soukup 43). Video games are often linked to problems including bad grades and violent behavior of people. The idea has been accentuated in the ScienCentral News video reports. The study suggests that might make users do a better job. Confidentiality relates to information sought, obtained, or held by an organization, the disclosure of which might be detrimental to that organization or to the third party that supplied it. In many cases, it is difficult to control e-mail communication between employees and protect information security (Aarseth, 99). The paper will try to answer and research the question “Why people are addicted to online video games? How does it affect their life?”

Online video games create a new reality and can be interested as a “second life” of the user. Bad communications lead to conflict. In this situation, employees cannot find a unified and single solution for the project or program competing with one another during meetings and negotiations. Also, e-mail is not an ideal form to solve current business problems, because it takes time to type an e-mail instead of “simply calling someone if the message is short” (Hartt n.d.). In some cases, employees must accept e-mails inflexibilities, and learn how to interpret the information provided to them and how to make correct deci­sions based on written short messages. On the other hand, electronic mail systems store and then deliver to electronic ‘mail boxes’ which enable the recipient to retrieve the message when convenient.. The main problems that affected e-mail communication include lack of mutual understanding, lack of openness in relations, and damaged relations, chaos situations (Bates, 45). Critics admit that:

Despite this growing concern, children still seem to be spending time playing video games. A recent report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (1999) reveals that a majority of 2- to 18-year-old children in this country have access to video game technology in their homes. (Smith 54).

As such, whatever is happening in the society in According the theory of the social construction of reality, each person is undeniably a perception and interaction with others. As such, this proves that culture is a vital component that affects the formation of one’s identity. In line with this, the concept of cultural identity was formed. Cultural Identity is often described as an individual’s feeling or perception of his or her belongingness to a certain cultural group. It is also described as the extent to which this feeling affects him or her and influences him/her to act in accordance with the actions, beliefs, traditions, and behavior imposed by the cultural group. A cultural group, on the other hand, refers to a set of individuals, which may be or maybe not be bounded by time and place. However, it is given that members of a cultural group carry the same set of symbolic meanings used in the interpretation of actions and communication. Normally, cultural groups exist in a common cultural space and time also (Berger, 98).

Through the sense of belongingness to a certain online video game, one tries to modify his/her behavior and practices in such a way that they are in accordance with the norms that are accepted by the online video game, to which the individual belongs. Thus, the end product will be that of identity. However, if an individual identifies himself/herself as a member of online video games that have cultural practices that oppose each other, he or she will be exposed to the question of which tradition to follow. Thus, his or her online video game identity will be compromised. In this case, the sense of free will, motivated by which cultural group he/she thinks he/she can more identify with, acts. In the analysis of the cultural identity of the interviewee, the act that he only tries to stay in line with norms of the “majority” while strongly not acting against the norms of his Islam community emphasizes that he identifies himself more as a member of the latter one. However, the fact that the interviewee acknowledges the norms of the “majority” also signifies his appreciation of the culture of this group, and therefore the concept of online video game assimilation exists (Faber, 76).

The changes are far-reaching: the definition of online video game; the nature of the information ‘commons’ for the citizen; the right of privacy in communicated expressions; the regulation of information infrastructures (computer operating systems and networks); the definition of information goods; and the nature of government communication with its citizens. These changes mostly revolve around information ownership and yet no consistent framework has yet to emerge as the question has mostly been approached in a piecemeal way. It is argued in conclusion that a new information dispensation must be built which guarantees information ownership, as this is the foundation on which systems of trading, governance, and research can be built. More interesting, though, was the extent to which users of the Internet as a news source said that as a result, they are using traditional news. It seems that using online video sites may have a more negative effect on news viewing than news reading. This might be because Internet users most often go online for the sort of information featured by television news, especially cable. In the early days, online companies did their very best to replicate the printed or media product (Berners-Lee, 33).

These emergent online video game standards now pose a major problem for competition regulators around the world as they span jurisdictions and the market dominance they create is not easily broken up by their nature. Although in some markets the developers may license the ‘standard’ technology to widen participation (the digital cellular phone standard GSM is one example), in others the standard-setter may aggressively protect its control over the standard as it regards it as an asset. At present most of the dominant information standards have been developed by US companies and they can only be regulated effectively by the US Department of Justice. These technological questions will, however, mark out the information infrastructures of the next century. In the emerging technological and commercial environment defined by the digital encoding of information representations ‘ownership’ is coming to mean different things (Aarseth, 33).

The internet and online video websites have become a new sales channel uncontrolled by the state and free for mass consumers. If any element of the channel can be provided in a more cost-effective way, either by another organization or the application of technology, then the producer will have a strong incentive to change their sales strategy. Mainstream media is limited by censorship and regulations, channels of communication, and geographical scope. In other words, this situation creates a channel conflict for mainstream media. Whenever there are a number of different sales channel elements that can address the same customer base, then there is the potential for conflict. The computer industry is renowned for having multiple channels which often find themselves in direct competition. There have been many instances when the computer manufacture, its distributors and resellers are all fighting for the same business (Smith et al 54).

The online video game is an area occupied by online companies. Some direct marketers have long suspected that the reliance of media advertising on attitudinal factors, instead of behavioral ones, has resulted in “much ado about nothing.” Moreover, they consider the Internet an information media and therefore antithetical to media advertising. When these capabilities are combined to address traditional business situations, it is possible to generate tangible benefits. The American media marketplace is not only larger but far more specialized than any other environment worldwide (Smith et al 54). Also, historically, marketing and advertising, in particular television and electronic media, have had a far more significant role in the United States than elsewhere. These abrupt turns can best be seen through annual changes. In the light of the Internet and its direct potential, these targeting options remained narrow and one-sided. Based on a broadcast model, they made real-time interactivity impossible. Having assessed the degree to which the Internet will affect the organization, the challenge is to manage the adoption of the new technology and the changes it will cause to existing processes. Decisions will be required about the advisability and cost implications of running multiple sales channels and the conflicts that can be created (Aarseth, 66).

Constraints on the geographic, industry, or application areas of trading, available to each channel element, can suddenly disappear. Perhaps the most important thing that can be done is to recognize that a problem will exist and to ensure that the existing channel elements have been informed of how the changes will affect them. If possible, these existing channel partners should be involved in the use of technology and encouraged to accept the changes by sharing part of the planned benefits. There are several reasons why it may be necessary to reduce the level of margin on media products that are being sold via the Internet-related sales channel. It may be sensible to offer a pricing advantage to encourage customers to use the channel. This does not necessarily affect the overall net margin since the cost structure of maintaining the channel may be significantly lower than the traditional alternatives (Berners-Lee 5).

In sum, it was found that people are addicted to online video games because they help users to change their own identity and create the ideal personality they cannot reach in real life. Jones writes that: “As in a video game, in which players acquire new weapons and capabilities within its digital geography and learn more and more about how to play from the collective knowledge of gamers online, both Lost’s characters and its audience are acquiring sequentially the “tools” they need to play. (51). Aarseth states that: “virtual environment has penetrated identity unevenly, thus marketers and advertising use this medium to promote their” (61). These quotes agree that online video games create a new reality for users but do not have a positive and educational impact on their personalities. Lack of regulations and censorship help video websites better position themselves against mainstream media companies. Online video sites succeed in moving economic activity closer to users (viewers) proposing low transaction costs, low barriers to entry, and improved access to information for the consumer. Thus, they have a negative and threatening impact on mainstream media, its audiences, and media messages. (Jones 51). Taking this measure helps the people to engage themselves in doing different kinds of exercises. The same thing can be told about the classic game Asteroids. This game has many important characteristics. One of these characteristics is the ability to rotate the wrist moves of a spaceship. The game is often associated with the waste of time. This is especially true when we are talking about the vast majority of people who are engaged in the research.

Works Cited

Aarseth, E. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Bates, B. Game Design: the Art and Business of Creating Games Roseville, CA: Prima Tech (Game Development Series), 2001.

Berger, A.A. Narratives in Popular Culture, Media and Everyday Life Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997.

Berners-Lee, Tim. Weaving the Web. London: Orion Business Books, 1999.

Faber, L. Re: Play Ultimate Games Graphics London: Laurence King Publishing, 1998.

Jones, S. E. Dickens on Lost: Text, Paratext, Fan-Based Media. Wordsworth Circle , 38 (2007), 51.

Smith, S. L. et al. Popular Video Games: Quantifying the Presentation of Violence and Its Context. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media , 47 (2003), 54.

Soukup, Ch. Mastering the Game: Gender and the Entelechial Motivational System of Video Games. Women’s Studies in Communication , 30 (2007), 43.

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IvyPanda. (2021, November 24). Online Video Games Addiction. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-video-games-addiction/

"Online Video Games Addiction." IvyPanda , 24 Nov. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/online-video-games-addiction/.

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Online Video Games Addiction'. 24 November.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Online Video Games Addiction." November 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-video-games-addiction/.

1. IvyPanda . "Online Video Games Addiction." November 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-video-games-addiction/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Online Video Games Addiction." November 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-video-games-addiction/.

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Are video games, screens another addiction?

  • Pediatric Medicine

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In an increasingly digital world, most people own multiple electronic devices with screens. However, many parents worry about the effects of screen use on themselves and their children.

With screens virtually everywhere, controlling a child's screen time can be challenging. How can you manage your children's screen time? How will you know if you or your children are addicted to screens or video games?

Is screen time damaging?

It's difficult to avoid screens completely, especially with their importance at work and school. However, excessive screen time can affect a persons mental, social and physical health.

Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Poor sleep or insomnia
  • Behavioral problems, including impulsive actions
  • Loss of social skills
  • Less time for play
  • Neck and back problems
  • Difficulties with work or school

Screen time can be engaging for people of all ages. This is because their brains process and react to the sensory input as if it were happening to them. For example, many people have cried, laughed or been startled while watching a movie. This same type of engagement is possible when a person plays a video game.

While playing a video game, the person's brain processes the scenario as if it were real. If the game depicts a dangerous or violent situation, the gamer's body reacts accordingly. This "fight-or-flight response" to that perceived danger is triggered by exposure to intense stimulation and violence in the game. Excessive video game use can lead to the brain being revved up in a constant state of hyperarousal.

Hyperarousal looks different for each person. It can include difficulties with paying attention, managing emotions, controlling impulses, following directions and tolerating frustration. Some adults or children struggle with expressing compassion and creativity, and have a decreased interest in learning. This can lead to a lack of empathy for others, which can lead to violence. Also, kids who rely on screens and social media to interact with others typically feel lonelier than kids who interact in person.

Chronic hyperarousal can have physical symptoms, as well, such as decreased immune function, irritability, jittery feelings, depression and unstable blood sugar levels. In children, some can develop cravings for sweets while playing video games. Combined with the sedentary nature of gaming, children's diet and weight can be negatively affected, as well. Sometimes children will even avoid stopping the game to go to the restroom, which can lead to hygiene issues.

How can gaming become an addiction?

An addiction is defined as a person's inability to control use of a substance or behavior, despite negative consequences. Some people who are engrossed in screen time or video games while ignoring other normal activities could be close to meeting this definition.

So why does this happen? The reward center in the brain releases dopamine in response to a pleasurable experience or hyperarousal. If a person experiences hyperarousal while playing video games, the brain associates the activity with dopamine. The person develops a strong drive to seek out that same pleasure again and again.

Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter in the brain. It helps sustain people's interest and attention, which is why it can hard for people to tear themselves away from a situation or behavior. It's also self-reinforcing. The more times people experience the behavior, the more dopamine is released, and the more driven they are to return to the behavior.

Symptoms of screen time or video game addiction

Similar to tobacco, alcohol or drugs, screen time or video games can become an addiction if it damages your health and relationships, and you are unable to control it.

Some symptoms could include:

  • Having intense urges for screen time or to play video games, and these urges block out other thoughts
  • Spending money on video games or screens, even though you can't afford it
  • Cutting back on social or recreational activities because of preference for screen time or video games
  • Continuing to play video games or participate in screen time, even though you know it's causing problems in your life, such as poor performance at school or work, or letting household responsibilities go
  • Displaying signs of irritability, anxiety or anger when forced to stop playing, even for brief periods of time
  • Lying to others about the extent of your use
  • Needing more screen time over time to get the same level of enjoyment
  • Neglecting your appearance, including lack of interest in grooming or clothing

Continued excessive use of screens can result in long-term or permanent changes in the brain that require extensive behavioral and medical treatment to reverse.

What can you do?

As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work as well. Not all kids are the same when it comes to screens and technology. Some children can self-regulate and might even put the screens down to go outside without you prompting them. Other kids become noticeably more anxious and quicker to lose their tempers when they spend a lot of time on screens. You'll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what's appropriate.

Consider applying the same rules to your child's real and virtual environments. In both, play with your child, teach kindness, be involved, and know who your child's friends and what your child does with them. Also, keep in mind that the quality of the media your child is exposed to is more important than the type of technology or amount of time spent. Encourage active screen time over passive screen time.

Active screen time is when you are interacting with other people that you know or when you are cognitively or physically engaged. For example, play educational games, or games that require players to build something together. Other options are fitness-type games that require movement while playing. Passive screen time includes watching screens with minimal cognitive engagement, such as scrolling through social media, watching online videos or playing simple games.

Set reasonable limits for your child's screen time and video game types, especially if your child's use of screens hinders involvement in other activities.

Consider these tips:

  • Follow guidelines for screen time, such as those suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics .
  • Model healthy use of screens and video games. Consider unplugging when you first get home from work, at dinner and when driving. Model other methods of relaxation and entertainment, such as taking a walk, playing a game, having a dance party or reading a book.
  • Encourage a balance between screen time and activities that require in-person social interactions, such as family activities or extracurricular activities.
  • Create structured, screen-free times, such as during mealtimes, in the mornings and before bedtime.
  • Consider using apps that control the length of time your child can use a device.
  • Keep screens out of bedrooms.
  • Require that all devices be charged outside of bedrooms at night.
  • Learn about the game rating categories and only allow your children to play video games suitable for their ages.

If you're concerned about a child or loved one's use of screen time, consulting a behavioral or addictions specialist can help determine treatment options.

Edward Luker is a counselor in Psychiatry & Psychology in La Crosse , Wisconsin.

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Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Violence in Video Games — The Negative Effects of Video Games on Children

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The Negative Effects of Video Games on Children

  • Categories: Violence in Video Games

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Words: 594 |

Published: Jan 29, 2024

Words: 594 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

Table of contents

Physical health issues, social and emotional consequences, academic performance and cognitive effects, addiction and dependence, counterargument and refutation.

  • "Video Gaming Contributes to Obesity in Children," Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, October 2012, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/video-gaming-contributes-to-obesity-in-children-201210245400.
  • "Video Games and Aggressive Tendencies," American Psychological Association, November 2019, https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-amp0000323.pdf.
  • "Video Game Addiction: Does It Occur? If So, Why?" National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2982791/.

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computer games addiction essay

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What is ‘gaming addiction’ and how can you prevent children from developing it?

As gaming addiction has officially been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition, we ask our experts to provide guidance on what it is and what steps parents can take to protect children from developing the condition.

computer games addiction essay

Andy Robertson

Gaming Disorder is listed in a draft document that remains to be finalised. It’s significant because the WHO guide is used by doctors to diagnose disease. It lists symptoms such as impaired control over gaming, increased priority and escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

Issue for parents

The problem this creates for parents is that it can confuse healthy enthusiasm and enjoyment with a clinical disorder. We also need to use these labels carefully so as not to trivialise other mental health issues.

That said, it does offer helpful language to identify when children stray from enjoyment and avid gaming into less healthy patterns. While children that won’t stop playing when it’s dinner time are certainly not suffering from a disorder, parents should keep an eye on any child who neglects relationships, exercise, school work and personal hygiene in favour of playing games.

Playing together and staying engaged

It’s important that parents don’t just focus on the individual child exhibiting this behaviour. My experience is that it’s as much a parenting issue as it is a childhood disorder. The best way to resolve this in most cases is to encourage parents to be present in the gaming world of their children.

Play together, help set healthy limits and actively find a variety of activities for children to consume online. This approach, particularly started at an early age, will keep gaming safe and sensible for most youngsters.

It’s not easy if you’re not familiar with gaming, but I’ve created succinct weekly videos to help parents who are worried that their children may be addicted to gaming, that can be accessed via my Patreon project.

Dr Elizabeth Milovidov, JD

Addiction can mean something very scary to parents and carers. When parents see that their child won’t get off the tablet, gaming console or computer when called, they may bemoan the fact that their child is “addicted” when they actually mean that their child is “overusing online games.” In situations like this, screen balance and perhaps even a digital detox may be recommended.

With the recent inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ in the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, parents need to understand what is gaming disorder and how they can prevent their children from developing this ‘addiction.’

The clinical definition of gaming addiction

Addiction in clinical terms is a pathological state that is diagnosed under certain criteria.

For example, gaming disorder is defined “by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”  It is important to note that this behaviour pattern has lasted at least 12 months and has resulted in difficulties with family, friends, socializing, education and other areas of functioning.

Questions to ask to determine if they have the condition

Based on guidelines established by child protection experts, academics and researchers at EU Kids Online , parents should not automatically assume that their child’s use of digital media is problematic, but they should ask themselves:

– Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?

– Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?

– Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?

– Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?

– Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?

Steps to take to deal with it

If the answers are yes, then parents consider whether their fears over digital media use are well-founded. If the answers are no, then “these particular parents and children may need to put in place regulations and restrictions in order to address problematic use.”

In other words, parents and carers can tackle the overuse of online games by taking steps to achieve balance in their homes :

establish screen balance guidelines

carry out a digital detox

find creative ways to allow games and tech time, balanced with outdoor or creative non-tech activities

make sure that games are age-appropriate and content-appropriate

notice how your children interact with their devices and games (aggressive, irritable, may mean that less screen time is needed)

A final point for parents to remember is that studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people engaged in online gaming.  Don’t panic. Parent.

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos

There is nothing wrong with your child playing and enjoying an online game or video console, but like most things when it comes to the online world it’s a matter of proportion.

While enjoying games is normal, they are designed (many by behavioural scientists) to be engaging after all. The problem arises when children and teenagers start to neglect other areas of their lives in order to play video games, or when the only way they can relax is by playing video games, as, over time, a child may start to turn to video games as a way of coping with difficult life issues.

Spotting the signs of gaming addiction

It’s important to look out for signs that your child is becoming too dependant on gaming- you may notice that:

they are talking about their game incessantly, that they play for hours on end and get defensive or even angry and aggressive when made to stop.

Another sign to look out for is if their daily needs like food and sleep are being disrupted, indeed physical symptoms might even arise from spending too much time online such as dry or red eyes, soreness in the fingers, back or neck or complaints of headaches.

Finally, they may appear preoccupied, depressed, or lonely as some games can be quite isolating. If you spot any of these signs in your child it’s a good idea to address the issue as soon as possible.

Steps to take to prevent it

Put parameters down when it comes to how long they’re allowed to play- don’t allow them to have tech in their rooms after lights out and ensure that they have alternative activities whether they be sports or clubs that make them engage with their peers in the real world- if you are still concerned then seek the help of a professional counsellor.

More to explore

See more articles and resources to help children stay safe online.

  • Advice for 11-13 years
  • Advice for 14+ year olds
  • Advice for 6-10 years
  • Online gaming resources

Support on site

  • Online gaming top tips for parents
  • Gaming guide for Teens
  • Online gaming – the basics

Related web links

Common Sense Media: Staistics on gaming addiction

Huffpost: One boy’s story about gaming addiction

Free & anonymous online support for young people

Get support on YoungMinds Parents Helpline

I completely agree with the above comment, the internet is without a doubt growing into the most important medium of communication across the globe and its due to sites like this that ideas are spreading so quickly.

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him. So I should thank you for the free lunch I got.

The problem arises when children and teenagers start to neglect other areas of their lives in order to play video games, or when the only way they can relax is by playing video games, as, over time, a child may start to turn to video games as a way of coping with difficult life issue this is a very problem little child problem.

Nice your blog regarding gaming and how to play games. This is the best blog I have ever read. It’s really a helpful post. Gain some experiences reading this post. Appreciate your hard work regarding

Hi Henry, this was published in 2018 but we have since provided more advice on this here: https://www.internetmatters.org/hub/news-blogs/expert-advice-on-gaming-addiction-in-young-people-and-children/

Thanks Internet Matters Team

Anyone know the date this article was published?

Write the comment Cancel reply

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