Reports from around the world suggest that gaming addiction is real and on the rise. Nationally, 8.5 percent of youth gamers (ages 8 to 18) can be classified as pathological(1) or clinically “addicted” to playing video games. Most youth play video games and many feel that they may be playing too much. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of youth say that they have felt “addicted to video games”, with about one-third of males (31%) and a little more than one in ten females (13%) feeling “addicted.” Forty-four percent of youth also report that their friends are addicted to games. With nearly 8 in 10 American youth (81%) playing video games at least one time per month, including 94 percent of all boys playing, this certainly raises concerns about video game addiction.
These are just some of the results of a new survey of 1,178 U.S. children and teenagers (ages 8 to 18) conducted online by Harris Interactive( between January 17 to 23, 2007. This study is the first to document a national prevalence rate of pathological video game use among youth.
Video game playing time differs by age as well as gender. The average 8- to 12 year-old now plays 13 hours of video games per week, while the average 13- to 18 year old plays 14 hours of video games per week. There are large differences between boys and girls, as tween (those ages 8 to 12) and teen boys average 16 hours and 18 hours per week, respectively. Tween girls average 10 hours per week and teen girls average 8 hours per week. Time matters because 8- to 18-year-olds who spend more time playing video games are more likely to perform more poorly in school, get into physical fights and/or be physically heavier.
Dr. Douglas Gentile, Director of the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University and the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family, states, “It is important that people realize that playing a lot is not the same thing as pathological play. For something to be an addiction, it has to mean more than you do it a lot. It has to mean that you do it in such a way that it damages your life. This is why we based our definition on how pathological gambling is diagnosed in the DSM-IV. Almost one out of every ten youth gamers show enough symptoms of damage to their school, family, and psychological functioning to merit serious concern.”
According to Dr. Suzanne Martin, Youth and Education Researcher at Harris Interactive, “The prevalence of video gaming in youth culture in combination with this level of pathological video gaming is great cause for concern and highlights the need for further research in this arena.”
Gamers who were surveyed and classified as pathological were receiving lower grades in schools than their peers, were more likely to have video game systems in their bedrooms (65%), were spending much more time playing games each week (averaging 24.5 hours per week), and were also more likely to have been diagnosed with an attention deficit problem.