Professor commends decision to classify gaming addiction as mental health disorder

A national study by an Iowa State professor found that the more children play video games, the more likely they are to develop “gaming addiction” as well as depression.

The World Health Organization plans to include “gaming disorder” on its list of mental health conditions in 2018, and much of that research comes from Iowa State professor Douglas Gentile and what he found over the course of his two-year national study.

“It’s always been a concern of mine what the physiological impact of gaming is on my children,” said Corinne Mattson, whose 10-year-old son plays video games a couple of times a week in the basement.

Mattson said she limits her children’s gaming time to about 30-60 minutes a day.

“I do see a bigger difference in my children that play games more than my ones that don’t,” Mattson said.

The study shows that the more children play video games, the more likely they are to develop depression and become addicted, meaning it takes over multiple areas of their life.

“Children’s grades drop as they game more and more,” Gentile said. “They start giving up sleep. They stop eating at regular times.”

Gentile found that nearly 9 percent of children who play video games develop what’s called “gaming addiction.”

“That’s 3 million today taking serious damage to their lives because of the way they play,” Gentile said.

The World Health Organization is recognizing gaming as a mental health disorder that can lead to problems down the road as adults.

Gentile hopes parents will pay more attention. “If their kid is gaming in a way that looks like it’s really disruptive to other areas of their life, don’t wait until it really had disrupted them,” he said.

That doesn’t mean giving up video games completely but rather teaching children limits so that they can keep things in balance.

“I do notice behavior changes with them and I will immediately tell them to get off and kind of cold turkey them from the gaming system for a good week or month,” Mattson said.

Gentile recommends no more than one hour of screen time – meaning video games, TV, tablets and phones – for elementary school-aged kids and no more than two hours of screen time for secondary school-aged kids.

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