Video games take toll on kids: Study

About 9 percent of children play such long hours of video games that they are pathological gamers, increasing risks of anxiety, depression, bad grades and social phobia, a study in Singapore found.

The compulsive gamers played for a weekly average of 31 hours compared with 19 for kids not deemed pathological, according to research released today by the journal Pediatrics. Overall, 83 percent of 3,034 children in the study played video games at least occasionally.

Gamers are considered pathological when their playing interferes with everyday life, and their behavior is described as being similar to that of gambling addicts, according to background information in the paper. The gaming isn’t merely a symptom of disorders such as depression, anxiety and social phobia, the study found. Rather, gaming can cause and reinforce those maladies.

“Although children who are depressed may retreat into gaming, the gaming increases the depression,” wrote the study authors, led by Douglas A. Gentile, a psychologist at Iowa State University in Ames.

The study — of children in grades 3, 4, 7 and 8 — lasted two years. Kids who stopped being pathological gamers during the study period showed lower levels of depression, anxiety and social phobia compared with peers who didn’t stop, the researchers said. 


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