Gaming Part 1: Internet Gaming Disorder

Gaming is a hot topic in the media at the moment, with a new study from Macquarie University that has revealed that 3% of Australian children and teens suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) [1].  Not surprisingly, gaming in Australia has been identified by PwC’s as the second highest revenue generating industry [2] With the industry growing exponentially throughout the pandemic, so too has the incidence of IGD which is a worry for the growing minds of children and teens. Recognised by the World Health Organization, Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD), also known as Video Gaming Disorder (VGD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a “persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress” (APA, 2013, p. 795) [3]. 

In the world of gaming video games generally fall into three categories: cooperative, competitive, or violent. The influence of competitive and violent games is of concern when it comes to the psychological development of children and teenagers especially given the human brain isn’t fully developed until approximately 25 years old. Competitive and Violent video games tend to insight more addictive behaviours than corporative games. In order to prevent addictive behaviours in your children and teenagers when gaming, the two components to focus on are; time spent gaming and the types of games they are engaging in.

So how do you know when your child has crossed over from loving gaming to Internet Gaming Disorder territory. The common signs, that also correlate with signs for addiction to technology and social media, are change in temperament, sleep difficulties or waking in the middle of the night to play, not wanting to go to school, withdrawal from friends or social activities, violent behaviour and in serious cases self-harm [1].

For a diagnosis five of the following nine indicators sighted by the APA need to be recorded by a mental health professional over a 12 month period:

  1. Preoccupation with video games
  2. Withdrawal when not playing video games or when they are taken away
  3. The need to spend more and more time playing video games
  4. Attempting to stop playing video games but being unsuccessful
  5. Loss of interest in friendships or hobbies that were once enjoyed
  6. Continuing with excessive gaming even when the affect is realised
  7. Deceiving family or therapists about the time spent gaming
  8. Using gaming to escape or to moderate moods
  9. Jeopardising a significant relationship, education, career opportunity or existing job

Obviously these indicators cover adults also. The current Australian statistics show that the demographic where Internet Gaming disorder is most prevalent is males aged 17 – 25 with males showing double the propensity to experience gaming addiction than females. It would be easy to assume that this is the case because the perception of gaming is there are more male than female gamers but in Australia it is almost a 50/50 split with 46% of females making up the gaming community.

Macquarie University Associate Professor Wayne Warburton and his colleagues study looked at 1,000 secondary students between the ages of 11 – 17. From this study 2.8 percent of the students met the criteria for IGD.  Although Professor Warburton indicates that teenagers are at the high risk he goes on to say that younger children can also be at risk. As an extension of this study the team conducted a more in depth study of 6 students 2 who were primary aged students.  The study sights an 11 year old being so addicted to gaming that they are physically violent towards family members and threatened self-harm. There is also a correlation between psychological and environmental factors including impulse control, self-esteem, social isolation, and little to no family support or supervision.

The team discovered that children who weren’t experiencing any of factors but also loved gaming had little to no risk of Internet Gaming Disorder which is promising as it would be reasonable to expect that children who are at high risk of or meet the criteria for IGD can turn around the addiction with parental and psychological support.

Gaming is a big industry and is something that isn’t going away in a hurry. The good news that there is a lot of help out there where you can access information on gaming and how to manage it in your home for children, adolescents, and adults alike.

  1. Warburton WA, Parkes S, Sweller N. Internet Gaming Disorder: Evidence for a Risk and Resilience Approach. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 May 4;19(9):5587. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19095587. PMID: 35564981; PMCID: PMC9103383.
  2. Gaming is second-highest consumer revenue generating sector: PwC Emma Sheppard (July 19, 2022) Mumbrella
  3. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) American Psychiatric Association. (2013).  Arlington, VA: Author.
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