Addiction and Internet Gaming Disorder

Coinciding with the release of the Pediatrics Supplement on November 1, 2017, Children and Screens hosted an interdisciplinary summit with pediatric media experts, researchers, advocates, government agencies, and policymakers, on what is known and what still needs to be learned about the relationship between kids and screens. The following summarizes Supplement findings shared at the summit:

Research Summary[1]

Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) was recently included by the American Psychological Association as a potential psychiatric diagnosis, with the recommendation that further study was necessary to understand it better. Using measures based on or similar to the IGD definition, between about 1% and 9% of gamers would be classified as having the disorder, depending on age, country, and other sample characteristics. How IGD starts is not well-understood at this time, although it appears that impulsiveness and high amounts of time gaming may be risk factors. IGD appears likely to be co-morbid with other mental health problems, such as depression, social phobias, and anxiety, and some evidence suggests that IGD can make those problems worsen. How long the disorder lasts vary widely, but it is unclear why. To date, no randomized controlled trials exist that indicate that IGD is treatable. More research is needed to discover how IGD starts, and evidence-based ways to treat it. This paper highlights important areas for future research and offers recommendations for clinicians, policymakers, and educators.

FAQs[1]

Is video game addiction real?

Over 100 studies exist using different populations and various ways of measuring it, but the general consensus is that it does exist, at least for some small percentage of people, and that it can be treated. This was the view of both the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5) and the World Health Organization (ICD-11 draft, at the time of this writing).

Is there an important difference between different manifestations of technology addictions? For example, is video game addiction the same as Internet addiction?

We don’t know yet. The existing research shows very similar patterns of dysfunctional symptoms and outcomes, so at this time it’s unclear how distinct they may be.

How can I tell if my child is addicted to the internet or video games?

Internet Gaming Disorder is defined by 9 symptoms, and there are simple scales out there that you can use (e.g., https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270652917_The_Internet_Gaming_Disorder_Scale).

Key Takeaways[1]

  • The early science on the idea of internet or video game “addiction” demonstrates that it does seem to be a serious problem for a small subset of youth gamers (between about 1% and 9%). Although this is a small percentage of gamers, the fact that over 90% of children and adolescents play video games in the US means that a substantial number of children are incurring damage to their lives because of how they play.
  • Internet Gaming Disorder is currently defined by nine broad symptoms demonstrating dysfunction in social, occupational, educational, family, psychological, and emotional functioning.
  • More research is needed to understand the etiology, course, and best treatment approaches.

Guidelines for Parents[1]

There are several different aspects of Internet Gaming Disorder where guidelines and recommendations could be valuable, and we do not imply that the following is a comprehensive list:

  • Trust your intuitions. If you believe there is a problem, it is worth investigating more carefully and having a clinical screening conducted by a professional therapist.[2]
  • Be empowered to make household rules around media and gaming and set and maintain limits on children’s engagement in these activities. Studies show that setting limits on the amount and content of children’s media is a powerful protective factor for a wide range of health and wellness indicators.
  • For children/adolescents who screen positive for online and gaming addiction, work with health care providers or counselors to determine the best intervention strategy. This may include screening for other common disorders such as anxiety or depression, seeing a counselor, and having restrictions on online time.

Sources

[1] Gentile, D.A., Bailey, K., Bavelier, D., Brockmyer Funk, J., Cash, H., Coyne, S.M., Doan, A., Grant, D.S., Green, C.S., Griffiths, M., Markle, T., Petry, N.M., Prot, S., Rae, C.D., Rehbein, F., Rich, M., Sullivan, D., Woolley, E., & Young, K. (2017). Internet Gaming Disorder in Children and AdolescentsPediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758H

[2] Gentile, D.A., Bailey, K., Bavelier, D., Brockmyer Funk, J., Cash, H., Coyne, S.M., Doan, A., Grant, D.S., Green, C.S., Griffiths, M., Markle, T., Petry, N.M., Prot, S., Rae, C.D., Rehbein, F., Rich, M., Sullivan, D., Woolley, E., & Young, K. (2017). Internet Gaming Disorder in Children and AdolescentsPediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758H

  1. Parents desire some guidelines to know how seriously to take this issue, and how to know when their child has a problem. The former of these is easier to address than the latter. The research focusing both on problematic video game or Internet use is clear — some people end up causing damage to their lives, schooling, occupations, and relationships due to their gaming and online habits. It is therefore worth considering seriously. How to tell if your child is having a problem, however, is trickier, because there is no single set of risk factors or warning signs. Some children may show very different patterns of problems from others, and some may be better at hiding the problem than others (e.g., one symptom is lying about the problem).

The analysis, conclusions, and recommendations contained in each paper are solely a product of the individual workgroup and are not the policy or opinions of, nor do they represent an endorsement by, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.

Additional Information