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Study Claims 9% Of All Kids Are Addicted To Video Games

January 17, 2011

Nearly one out of every 10 kids who play video games become addicted to them, and those pathological gamers could develop a plethora of mental health problems if their addiction is not properly dealt with, claims a new study published in the February 2011 edition of the journal Pediatrics.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed 3,034 school children attending third through eighth grade at 12 different schools in Singapore. They discovered that 83% of those kids played games regularly, and 9% of them were found to be pathological gamers using standards similar to those used by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnosing gambling addiction.

“Once they become addicted, pathological gamers were more likely to become depressed, have increased social phobias, and increased anxiety. And they received poorer grades in school,” Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and one of the researchers involved in the study, said in a statement Sunday.

“Therefore, it looks like pathological gaming is not simply a symptom of depression, social phobia or anxiety,” Gentile, who also runs Iowa State’s Media Research Lab, added. “In fact, those problems seem to increase as children become more addicted. In addition, when children stopped being addicted, depression, anxiety and social phobias decreased as well.”

According to Gentile, between 7% and 11% of gamers in countries around the world are considered pathological, which means that they “must be damaging multiple areas of their lives” through their habit. In the US, 8.5% of gamers are considered addicted, according to Iowa State University.

Those individuals played an average of 31 hours per week, compared to 19 for those gamers not considered pathological, Bloomberg reporter Elizabeth Lopatto noted in a Monday article.

“This study is important because we didn’t know until this research whether some types of children are at greater risk, how long the problem lasts, or whether pathological gaming was a separate problem or simply a symptom of some other problem–such as depression,” said Angeline Khoo, associate professor of psychological studies at the National Institute of Education in Singapore and principal investigator of the overall project.

Some experts, including Mark Griffiths, the Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, are questioning the Pediatrics study.

“My own research has shown that excessive video game play is not necessarily addictive play and that many video gamers can play for long periods without there being any negative detrimental effects,” Griffiths told Frederik Joelving of Reuters Health via email. “If nine percent of children were genuinely addicted to video games there would be video game addiction clinics in every major city!”

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