I know a lot of kids received electronics for Christmas so they may now play all sorts of games. But, with the electronics comes the issue of how long may they play, what games are age appropriate and when is it “too much”? Do you ever feel as if your child vanishes for hours on end in their room and suddenly you realize that they have been “gaming” all day.
I recently read an article on gaming addiction and I had not realized how problematic this issue has become. It seems that an increasing number of of children and adolescents are becoming pre-occupied with internet gaming and they demonstrate compulsivity and exclude other interests, including family time, school and outside activities.
This is a new type of addiction and is even included in latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “Internet Gaming Disorder”. Some of the criteria include:
*Pre-occupation or obsession with Internet gaming
*Withdrawal symptoms when not able to play, including irritability or sadness
*Loss of interest in other previously pleasurable activities
*Lying about internet gaming time
I did not realize that the problem with Internet gaming addiction is such a problem in South Korea. In 2006 it was reported that 50% of South Korea youth were dealing with addiction!! In the U.S. it has been estimated to affect somewhere between 2-7 % of the population. There have even been outpatient treatment programs that have recently opened in the U.S. to deal with this issue.
Interestingly, when gaming there is stimulation of areas of the brain that have been associated with addiction. Some studies have been done looking at images of the brain while gaming and this addiction is similar in neuro-circuitry to substance related addictions. Scary stuff.
So parents, be aware and educate your kids on responsible Internet use and gaming.Remind kids that addiction issues tend to run in families…you can’t change your genetics. Make sure you know the warning signs of addiction such as decreasing school performance, cravings to play or withdrawal symptoms when games are taken away.
The best treatment and intervention seems to be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and specific therapy has recently been developed. However, this treatment is in early phases and interventions will continued to need to be studied.