Video Game Fun or Addiction?

Apr 27

My husband and I periodically discussed purchasing a Wii for our three boys.¬† They each have a DS Nintendo already, which they would gleefully play from sunrise to sundown if only we’d let them.¬† But, handily enough, they’re small enough to stow away in one hiding spot or another until their next Happy Hour – Hey boys!¬† Play for thirty minutes, and if you’re good – another thirty for free!¬†

Except for the odd fight that erupts when it’s time to shut them off, we have mutual respect for video game time.¬† Yet, still they want the Wii.¬† The questions my husband and I have to ask are… Why should they get it?¬† Why would we want another reason to argue over game time?¬† Why do they need yet another video game system?¬† That is, another excuse to not read a book, or play outside, or, uh, talk?¬† The latest study, has muddled our dilemma even more.

According to the study of 1,178 Americans, 20% of the kids were addicted to video games

According to the study of 1,178 Americans, 20% of the kids were addicted to video games.¬† One in five kids have an addiction?¬† That is a pretty alarming statistic.¬† To determine a child’s addiction, the study measured them against eleven symptoms and only those who exhibited at least six of them were deemed to be pathological gamers. ¬†The most interesting research in the study was the distinction¬†between the two groups:¬† one played just for fun, while the other “incurred damage to several areas of one’s life.”

In comparing video game players with pathological gamers, they learned that among the addicted players  -

  • They had been playing for more years, more often, and for more time (two times as much time as non-pathological players at 24 hours per week)
  • They knew more of the ratings symbols i.e., M for Mature, T for Teen
  • They got lower grades in school
  • They were more likely to report having trouble paying attention in school
  • They were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder
  • They were more likely to report feeling addicted to games and having friends they thought were addicted, too
  • They were much more likely to be involved in physical fights over the past year
  • They were more likely to have a video game system in their bedroom.

Interestingly, becoming addicted to video games had nothing to do with age, race, frequency of using the internet for homework, having a TV in the bedroom, or type of school the child attended.  Children were just as likely to exhibit addiction whether they attended private or public schools, or were home schooled.

The study concluded that video game addiction was definitely a predictor of poor performance in school.  But does the gaming cause bad grades, or is a student who struggles in school just more likely to play more video games?  The study did not know the answer to that.

All my children do very well in school, so perhaps it’s less likely my kids will lean towards addictive behaviour.¬† But is it worth taking the chance?¬† Then again, two of the symptoms of addiction are:

  • skipping homework to play video games, or
  • skipping chores to play video games.

Heck, as a kid I’d have laid still under my bed for an hour if it meant getting out of chores.¬† Isn’t ‚Äògetting out of work’ in the very¬†definition of Kid?¬† Sometimes, as parents, we just need to be guided by common sense.¬† Would I let my kids play twenty hours of games in a week?¬† Not a chance.¬† At least, I don’t think so.¬† But then, my kids are still young and relatively easy to control (aside from when we’re in the candy aisle of the grocery store.)

I’m not yet convinced we should buy a Wii, either now, or ever.¬† With it, comes a lot of responsibility for both parents and children.¬† As parents, we set the rules.¬† And the kids, unfortunately, have to abide by them – which is just as tough, if you’re looking at it through their tear-filled eyes.

Fortunately, Christmas is still more than six months away.¬† And then there’s the next Christmas, and the one after that.


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One comment

  1. Kevin /

    I found this article very interesting mostly for the fact that I, at age 35, still enjoy video games from time to time. I grew up with moderate video game playing, mostly during poor weather days, while good weather days were spent outside. As an adult now, I find my video game time spent laughing with friends, and used in a social atmosphere.

    My fear for this generation is not video games and addictions to them, but the lack of outdoor, and imaginative time spent away from them. Video games, or others form of sit down entertainment are not the issue here, I think. I am more concerned that they are used as another baby sitter, or time filler for the parent who “doesn’t have the energy” to spend time with their kids. Kids mimic their parents, and if you are a sitter, they will be too. If you are a mover and a shaker, they will follow suit.

    Video games are an outlet to some degree, but I think they should be used as a cool down after the bulk of their energy is used up with activity.

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