By Lauren Barack November 23, 2010
Playing video games excessively can lead to problematic behavior, especially for high school boys, says a new study from Yale University’s School of Medicine published in the current issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Problematic gamers are defined as those who report trying to cut back or who have an overpowering need to play, as well as those who feel tension that can only be relieved by playing, the study says.
However, researchers noted that problematic gaming instances were low for librarians and teachers incorporating educational video games into the classroom curriculum.
Nearly 5 percent of teens who consider themselves gamers reported an "irresistible urge to play," along with stress that only disappeared after they started playing, with 5.8 percent of boys falling into this category compared to just 3 percent of girls.
"The prevalence of problematic gaming is low but not insignificant, and problematic gaming may be contained within a larger spectrum of externalizing behaviors," says the article, "Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming." The report concludes that "more research is needed to define safe levels of gaming, refine the definition of problematic gaming, and evaluate effective prevention and intervention strategies."
The study comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court continues to mull a California law that’s being challenged over whether children should be banned from purchasing violent video games.
While the Yale University study doesn’t differentiate between the types of video games teens play, violent or otherwise, it does note that playing these games can become excessive.
Researchers anonymously surveyed 4,028 children, with 51.2 percent saying they play video games, and about 14 percent admitting to playing an average of three hours or more a day. The study’s authors noted that the number could even be higher since gamers often lose track of the amount of time they spend playing. Researchers also found associations between excessive gaming and "smoking, drug use, aggressive behavior and depression," they wrote.
Gaming is not likely to disappear from today’s culture. And the authors note that "given their popularity among youth," gaming requires a closer look at how it can continue without behavior problems developing.