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Op-ed: Is "Game Disruption" really something to be worried about?



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In a current sample of about 600 young people in the state, 6.5 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds have serious gambling problems.

Players do not like to hear the game. Trust me ̵

1; I was there.

A woman asked me for advice a few years ago. Her 9-year-old son played video games 12-14 hours a day. He would be so involved in the game that he would forget the food.

She wondered, "Is that something I should be worried about?"

Last week, the World Health Organization has resolutely answered this question "Yes," listing "gambling disorder" for the first time as a mental health problem.

Unsurprisingly, the video game industry immediately took the sting, saying that they were disappointed with the WHO decision and that the evidence was inconclusive. Other "experts" have spoken out against the decision because they describe video games as largely beneficial and call the term "moral panic".

First, only a small minority of players are addicted, about 3-10 percent, depending on the study. But for this group, there are some important issues, including withdrawal symptoms, when they can not play, deception when playing video games, conflicts with friends and family, missed job or education opportunities, and the inability to stop or reduce the time they try to quit

And the research is very clear: video game addiction is almost always associated with negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, aggression and loneliness etc. I've never seen a study on the dependence on video games had any positive benefits.

A frequent question is whether these children already suffer from mental health problems. In other words, is video game addiction just a symptom – and not a cause?

If we look at the adolescents over time, we find some evidence of this: teens who are depressed, anxious and socially withdrawn tend to have more problems with video games in the future. But here's the kicker – these teens become more depressed, anxious and socially withdrawn over time, and those teens who can free themselves who are no longer considered "addicted" improve all mental health measures.

How are we? in Utah? Well, not great. In a recent sample of about 600 young people in the state, around 6.5 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds experience serious gaming problems. There is definitely a significant gender effect, with only 1.5 percent of girls, but 12.25 percent of boys show problems with video games. It could be argued that 12 percent of boys are not that much, but in Utah this is a considerable number – using census data and extending it during adolescence could pose up to 30,000 boys in Utah who are having problems to function in their daily lives, partly because of video games.

Parents can help their children overcome gambling addiction by developing more self-regulation and healthy coping mechanisms. It also helps find out what motivates the interest in playing video games – maybe it's a social network or a competitive campaign. Once parents find out that video games need to be filled for a child, they may try to channel these motivations into healthier activities.


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Comments on this story

It is time to stop pretending that video games do not have a negative impact on some children. Yes, there can be advantages in playing video games and the vast majority of people playing video games have no problems. However, video games can be extremely problematic for a small group of individuals and interfere with the ability to function in the real world. The evidence suggests that it is time to listen to the World Health Organization a little more and a little less to the billion dollar industry with an incentive to addict children.

Sarah M. Coyne is Associate Professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.


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