Summary: While playing video games for more than four hours a day can increase the risk of depression in teens, researchers report using social media and other online social mediums can help mitigate depressive symptoms.
Source: Johns Hopkins University.
Those who play games more than four hours a day may not develop addiction-like problems if they are socially engaged with others.
Teenagers who play video games for more than four hours a day suffer from symptoms of depression, but frequent use of social media and instant messaging may mitigate symptoms of game addiction in these teens, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.
The findings, scheduled for publication in the March 2017 issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, suggest that while heavy gaming, particularly in boys, can be viewed as a warning signal for parents, not everyone who plays many hours a day is at risk for developing problems related to gaming. Some of the downsides of gaming, the researchers say, may be balanced out in those who are socially engaged either online or in real life with friends. In fact, the researchers say, boys with high-quality friendships appear immune from the depression associated with heavy use of video games.
Researchers say the findings could inform organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association that have proposed making Internet Gaming Disorder a condition that would be on par with disorders relating to substance abuse and pathological gambling.
“While playing video games for four hours a day can be worrisome behavior, not everyone who does so is at risk of developing symptoms of addiction or depression,” says study leader Michelle Colder Carras, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School. “If these adolescents are sitting around playing games together with their friends or chatting regularly with their friends online as they play, this could be part of a perfectly normal developmental pattern. We shouldn’t assume all of them have a problem.”
Colder Carras and her colleagues analyzed 2009-2012 data from the annual Monitor Internet and Youth study, a school-based survey of nearly 10,000 teenagers across the Netherlands. Researchers asked the teens about how often they play video games, use social media and instant messaging, and about their friendships. The survey also had the teens answer questions about addictive behaviors, including whether they feel like they can stop gaming if they want to and whether they get irritable if they’re not playing. While only Dutch teens participated in the survey, Colder Carras and her colleagues believe that the responses would likely be similar in teens in other developed nations such as the United States.
In doing their statistical analysis, the researchers focused on many subsets of respondents, notably heavy gamers who also reported frequent online social interactions and those who did not. They found that symptoms of video game addiction depend not only on video game play but also on concurrent levels of online communication and that those who were socially active online reported fewer symptoms of game addiction. All of the subsets of heavy gamers had more depressive symptoms, but boys who were not very social online showed more loneliness and anxiety, regardless of the quality of their friendships. Girls who gamed extensively but were also very active in online social settings had less loneliness and social anxiety but also lower self-esteem.
Internet Gaming Disorder was proposed for further study in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), known as the bible of the American Psychiatric Association. Questions remain about how to best distinguish engaged gamers – who have fewer symptoms of addiction and depression problems – from problematic gamers, or those who have a loss of control over gaming associated with problems that lead to significant harm or distress.
To be sure, Colder Carras says, most of the adolescents who reported playing video games for four or more hours a day did report depressive symptoms, possibly reflecting problems that need treatment. But it shouldn’t be assumed that all those adolescents have a gaming-related disorder that needs treating. Parents and clinicians need to look at the underlying reasons for why the teens play so many video games.
“Our findings open up the idea that maybe playing a lot of video games can be part of having an active social life. Instead of being concerned about the game playing, we should focus on those who also lack a social life or have other problems,” she says. “Rather than seeing a lot of video game playing and worrying that this reflects gaming-related problems, parents and clinicians should figure out whether these teens also have high-quality friendships. It could just be that they have good friends who they like to hang out and play video games with. That is probably not a worrisome equation.”
A key, she says, is looking for the reasons why the teen spends so many hours behind a console or computer. Is it because the teen is too depressed to cope with the real world and uses gaming as an attempt to stave off loneliness? Or are games a way to socialize and bond with others, either in person or through interactive online games?
Colder Carras says that while older teens can usually recognize when their use of the internet is problematic, younger ones may need help to put everything into perspective and be given tools on how to handle potential gaming-related issues that may arise.
“Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents” was written by Michelle Colder Carras, Antonius J. Van Rooij, Dike Van de Mheen, Rashelle Musci, Qian-Li Xue and Tamar Mendelson. Collaborating institutions include the IVO Addiction Research Institute and Tilburg University in The Netherlands, imec-MICT-Ghent University in Belgium and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Funding: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32DA007292) and the National Institute of Mental Health (5T32MH014592-39).
Source: Stephanie Desmon – Johns Hopkins University
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents” by Michelle Colder Carras, Antonius J. Van Rooij, Dike Van de Mheen, Rashelle Musci, Qian-Li Xue, and Tamar Mendelson in Computers in Human Behavior. Published online December 1 2016 doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.060
Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents
Examining online social interactions along with patterns of video gaming behaviors and game addiction symptoms has the potential to enrich our understanding of disorders related to excessive video game play.
We performed latent class analysis in a sample of 9733 adolescents based on heavy use of games, social networking and instant messaging, and game addiction symptoms. We used latent class regression to determine associations between classes, psychosocial well-being and friendship quality.
We identified two types of heavy gaming classes that differed in probability of online social interaction. Classes with more online social interaction reported fewer problematic gaming symptoms than those with less online social interaction. Most adolescents estimated to be in heavy gaming classes had more depressive symptoms than normative classes. Male non-social gamers had more social anxiety. Female social gamers had less social anxiety and loneliness, but lower self-esteem. Friendship quality attenuated depression in some male social gamers, but strengthened associations with loneliness in some male non-social gamers.
In adolescents, symptoms of video game addiction depend not only on video game play but also on concurrent levels of online communication, and those who are very socially active online report fewer symptoms of game addiction.
“Video gaming in a hyperconnected world: A cross-sectional study of heavy gaming, problematic gaming symptoms, and online socializing in adolescents” by Michelle Colder Carras, Antonius J. Van Rooij, Dike Van de Mheen, Rashelle Musci, Qian-Li Xue, and Tamar Mendelson in Computers in Human Behavior. Published online December 1 2016 doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.060