A study out of Iowa State University by Douglas Gentile has found that 8.5% of US youth (8 to 18 years) are “addicted” to video games. Evaluative questions were part of a 2007 Harris Poll survey of 1,178 children and teens.
“For some kids, they play in such a way that it becomes out of balance. And they’re damaging other areas of their lives, and it isn’t just one area, it’s many areas,” said Gentile, a psychologist and assistant professor whose study was posted online today by the journal Psychological Science.
To be considered an addict, gamers had to display six of 11 symptoms, including:
- 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
- Stealing games or money to play more
“It’s not that the games are bad,” said Gentile, who is also director of research at the nonprofit National Institute on Media and the Family. “It’s not that the games are addictive. It’s that some kids use them in a way that is out of balance and harms various other areas of their lives.”
Of all the nation’s children, 88% or 45 million play video games. Therefore, according to Gentile, 3 million are addicted to video games.
Though, not all experts agree with Gentile.
“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.”
I read this and think about the commercials from when I was a little kid, about “This is Your Brain on Drugs. Any questions?” It had a fried egg sizzling in a pan. I thought it was a scary commercial, and it frankly made me not want to eat eggs anymore.
Is this study a scare tactic, like “This is Your Brain on Drugs” – or are 3 million kids really addicted to video games? Are skipping chores the signs of an addict, or a kid who would rather do anything than wash the dishes? Is escapism through video games any different than escapism through books? Would we ever criticize a child for being addicted to reading or spending too much time with a book?
I wonder about this study… when “This is Your Brain on Drugs” finished frying up an egg and asked “any questions” – I’d like to raise my hand now, and pose a few to Mr. Gentile.