Video game addiction: Researchers identify risk factors

Tribune Health

Most kids don’t become addicted to playing video games, though it may seem that way to parents. But a new study identifies risk factors for “pathological,” or obsessive, gamers and says that such children become more depressed and anxious the more they play.

The study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics looked at more than 3,000 elementary- and middle-school children in Singapore over a two-year period. The report says in part:

“Greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence, and greater impulsivity seemed to act as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers, whereas depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming.”

Hard-core gamers made up about 9% of the children, the study said, roughly the same percent as those in other countries. Slumping grades, poorer relationships with parents and interest in more violent games was common too.

And researchers connect the dots by saying the risk factors and behaviors could set the stage for long-term mental illness.


The Entertainment Software Assn., which represents game makers, refutes the findings. Here’s a blog with comments from the association.

The researchers make a point of saying that pathological gaming is not a “phase.” Those with a problem still had a problem two years later. That’s a lot of time in front of a screen -- and a lot of time for building social skills (and everything else) lost.