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Nine per cent of gamer kids are 'addicted'

Screenagers beware

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Videogaming is a normal activity for teenagers, but one in 10 are actually "addicted" to the activity, a recent study claims.

A two-year study – details of which were published today in American journal Pediatrics – of more than 3,000 kids at a Singapore school claimed those rated as being addicted to games are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and experience a drop in their school grades.

To pinpoint addiction, teachers gave out questionnaires that asked the kids about their gaming as well as other aspects of their lives.

The questions centred on "hypothesised risk and protective factors for developing or overcoming pathological gaming ... including weekly amount of game play, impulsivity, social competence, depression, social phobia, anxiety and school performance".

Based on these factors, the research team were able to spot those kids they believe are addicted.

On average, kids play games for 20 hours a week, and up to 12 per cent of boys and five per cent of girls qualify as addicted as defined by the study.

Dr Douglas Gentile, who heads up the Media Research Lab in Iowa State University and is linked to the college's Department of Psychology, worked on the study and told Reuters that those who played longer hours had poorer social skills and were at a higher risk of becoming addicted over the two-year period.

He also believes that, though the study doesn't show a direct link, such unhealthy gaming habits fuels kids' mental health problems, which could in turn cause them to spend even more time in front of a screen.

Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, is sceptical. Griffiths, who featured in a recent Panorama programme on the same subject, told the news agency: "If Nine per cent of children were genuinely addicted to video games, there would be video game addiction clinics in every major city."

It remains to be shown if the "risk factors" the study investigated are a cause of gaming addiction or an effect. It has not been shown that all kids who play for what an adult might believe to be an excessive duration are affected this way or become unable to stop playing.

Then again, Griffiths also said that gaming addiction is so new that people don't think it's important enough to invest money into such research. Perhaps this study and ongoing investigations such as Project Massive, will prove otherwise.

The Panorama episode stated that 66 per cent of yoof have a console and asked if this is a "hidden problem building up in homes across the country".

What are your views on the "screenager" generation? Is their infatuation unhealthy, or simply a worthy substitute for our own addictive activities? ®

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