The World Health Organization (WHO) considers some forms of video gaming to be an unhealthy condition. The problem lies in "persistent or recurrent" patterns of gaming and has the following three features (U S News, 2017):
"1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."
Like other disorders, the condition needs to be severe, which is usually defined by duration-- in this case, 12 months. Severity also requires an evaluation of how much gaming interferes with other aspects of life--personal, family, social, education, occupational and so forth. Clinicians have some flexibility on the 12 month criterion when they think a condition is particularly severe.
Clearly, not everyone who plays a lot of video games has severe problems. Psychologists and psychiatrists avoid using terms like "addiction" because they are too vague and may suggest physiological dependence. But mental health clinicians do see youth and adults who spend so much time gaming that they have little time for relationships and other important aspects of life.
One US study of 1,178 youth ages 8 to 18 found that 8% had "pathological patterns" of gaming, which affected school performance (Gentile, 2009).
From a scientific perspective, psychological scientists have found a small and reliable link between using violent video games and aggressive behavior such as pushing and yelling. Studies do not support a link to more violent acts.
“Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.”(See link for more APA 2020)
Several aspects of video games can influence child behavior. In Discipline with Respect, I identify two major areas for parents to consider when it comes to gaming and similar conditions. One potential problem is the role-model effect. That is, role models within video sources and those who model any undesirable behavior can influence children and youth (Chapter 3 ). Older siblings are often effective role models. The other problem with excessive gaming and similar activities is one of creating an unproductive or irresponsible "lifestyle," which I discuss in chapter 8 about the principle of substitution and the need to set boundaries.
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