Nearly one in 10 kids are video game addicts

LA CROSSE, Wis. — More than 90 percent of school-aged kids play video games. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly one in 10 of them is an addict.

Video game addiction is not recognized as an official diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. But many of the people who suffer from it show the same symptoms of people who struggle with gambling or other addictions.

“They’re hiding the screen when their parents come in, they’re not being truthful about how much time they’re spending online… they’re chronically sleep-deprived. All of their world turns inward and is revolving around the game and that social network as opposed to real friends,” said Parent Educator at The Parenting Place Lisa Metz.

Gaming crosses the line into addiction when it starts interfering with a gamer’s school or job functioning, causes problems in their family life, or interferes with their social functioning. In fact, it’s that issue of socializing outside the virtual world that makes this problem stand out from other addictions.

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“If a child just plays video games so much and doesn’t interact with other kids, then they’re not going to learn how to interact socially with kids like their peers would, who aren’t playing all the video games. So there is a fear that social stunting could occur,” said Gundersen Lutheran child and adolescent psychiatrist Emily Rae-Stuart.

But not everyone is convinced it’s the gaming that causes social withdrawal.

“It’s kind of the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Does that lead to more withdrawal socially or are you more prone to that because that’s your personality?” said Metz.

And video game store owner Mike Williams says gaming can actually be a way for introverted people to interact with others.

“Certain kids that might be socially awkward and don’t know how to deal with people in real life situations found video games as a way to interact and find friends. We have people that rely on us to do our game nights so they can socialize. It might be the one night out of the week that they get to actually see another human face,” said Williams.

And when it comes to video game addicts, Williams says the problem isn’t the game– it’s the gamer.

“People have addictive personalities and they’ll find an avenue for their addiction, whether it be one thing or another,” said Williams.

Williams says there’s a certain type of game that’s more addicting than others. They’re called Mass Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. World of Warcraft is probably the best-known example. The problem for addicts lies in the fact that there’s no end to the game in sight. And since there’s constant play, the addiction is never satisfied.

Video game addiction isn’t just a problem for kids. Metz says she’s seeing it in a growing number of young parents. According to Metz, it’s a generation that grew up playing video games and has a hard time putting down the controller to play with their young children instead.