Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gamer or Addict?

Two questions.....first, do you remember the first time you played a video game system? I do, it was Atari, and my favorite game was called River Raid. Video games have come a long way since then, now there are multiple game systems, handheld game systems and cell phone gaming available to choose from. The second question, are you, your child, or someone you know a gamer, or an addict? Yes I said addict. Most people think of addiction as pertaining only to substance use, however video gaming is being equated with the same type of addiction as gambling.

After looking at multiple definitions of a gamer online, I came up with the following definition. A gamer is quite simply, someone who is a devoted player of electronic video games. According to the definition of an addict is a person addicted to an activity, habit or substance. also defines addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming, such as narcotics, to such an extent that cessation causes severe trauma.

There is a recent University of Iowa study that has come out, that focuses on the effects of video gaming on children. The survey spanned three years, and surveyed 3034 Singapore children from third through eighth grade. The results of that study were that 83 percent of those children played video games approximately 21.5 hours a week. The more concerning result of that study was that 9 percent, almost one out of ten, of those children study were to be considered addicted to video gaming. Those considered addicted were observed to play more than thirty hours a week, lacked social skills, had a decrease in empathy, increase in impulsivity, and increased levels of anxiety and depression. In addition to that study, there is an addiction treatment center in Amsterdam that now has a detox type unit for gaming addicts.

Here are some warning signs of video game addiction:
- playing for an increased amounts of time
- thinking about gaming during other activities
- gaming to escape real life issues
- lying to people about how much you game
- feeling irritable and frustrated when you don't get a chance to play

Now, just because a person spends large amounts of time playing video games does not mean that they are addicted. Simply to get to a stopping point in some games takes a minimum of an hour. However, if they meet some of the warning signs above, or if they become angry, violent, or depressed when they attempt to stop playing or have their games taken away, you might want to pay attention, and seek some assistance. As parents, don't be afraid to set limits and boundaries on video gaming. Those limits and boundaries can include where they can game, when they can play and for how long. Video games are fun, but just like most things, should be done in moderation.

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