Special Report: Digital Disorder

Special Report: Digital Disorder
Updated: Apr. 30, 2019 at 11:04 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - As technology improves, so does the popularity of video gaming.

With more people playing, and sometimes doing it for hours on end, it’s becoming a real health concern. So much so in fact, the World Health Organization proposed adding “gaming disorder” to its list of disease classifications last year.

But gaming in moderation isn’t all bad, there are also some benefits.

Video gaming addiction isn’t about kids spending a few hours in the basement playing “Fortnite” or “Call of Duty.” As with any medical disorder, the person affected has become seriously impaired.

12-year-old Alex is a gamer and a devoted one, but his grandmother, Pam, who is raising him, worries that he’s becoming addicted. She says they’ve done their best to limit his hours, but when the video games are taken away she says his reaction is severe and alarming.

“He’ll go downstairs and punch the punching bag with no gloves, because he’s angry you know,” Pam said.

And she says that scares her. Alex admits to spending 4 to 5 hours a day, sometimes more, playing video games and studies reveal this is typical with between 5% and 10 % of all gamers - all hallmarks of addiction.

“They spend an enormous amount of time playing video games, they think about video games, they crave video games, they play video games, even though it’s causing harm in their life or causing harm to the people around them,” Medical Director of the Evansville Psychiatric Center Dr. Shannon Jones said. "So, just like any substance, addiction video game addiction can negatively affect the person and the people around them.

Getting them to unplug isn’t easy. Dr. Jones says it begins by parents consistently enforcing household rules and limits.

“The hours need to be limited in terms of number, and they need to be limited in terms of appropriateness," Dr. Jones said." We don’t do games at midnight, we sleep at midnight. We play games after homework and chores are done, after priorities are taken care of."

Some experts are in favor of a “pay to play” approach. Your kid is allowed X amount of time to game in a day. If they exercise for an hour, then get an extra hour of electronics. If they read 30 minutes, they get a half an hour more to play.

Pam hopes that by doing something now, it’ll be enough to get ahead of a dangerous gaming addiction with Alex. She’s already seeing progress when they enforce limits.

Of course, video gaming is not all bad. It’s supposed to be a fun leisure activity and if the games are age appropriate, and used in moderation, it does have benefits.

They can spark an interest in educational activities and they can actually practice the educational skills like map reading, or spelling, or even math skills are available and some of the games they can enhance the way your brain functions.

It can improve hand-eye coordination, and can lead to faster decision-making and rhetoric responses and additionally there could be some other benefits.

Certain benefits have a social aspect and involves teamwork, and that can be be helpful for some social skills. Some video games involve more physical activities. Wii-Fit games can get you moving and can help with physical conditioning.

Recent studies also point to serious gamers being good candidates for tech jobs. A survey by Robert Half Technology, found about a quarter of more than 2,500 CEOs, said they were attracted to job seekers who liked playing or developing video games as a hobby.

A digital media manger at the Smithsonian Institution’s science-education center, says gamers tend to be problem solvers, organized and adaptable.

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