Poll Indicates Game Addiction on the Rise Among Youth

A recent Harris poll suggests that video game addiction is a growing problem in the United States.

In January Harris conducted an online survey of nearly 1,200 children and teens. The poll was conducted in collaboration with Prof. Douglas Gentile (left) of Iowa State University. Gentile is also the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family.

Based on the survey data, Harris concludes that 8.5% of gamers are clinically addicted to playing video games, while 23% report that they have felt addicted to games.

Harris also looked at the amount of time kids spend playing video games and concluded that boys 8-12 spend 16 hours per week, while their 13 to 18-year-old counterparts spend 18 hours gaming each week. According to the Harris web site:

Time matters because 8- to 18-year-olds who spend more time playing video games are more likely to perform more poorly in school, get into physical fights and/or be physically heavier.

Of the poll results, Gentile said:

It is important that people realize that playing a lot is not the same thing as pathological play. For something to be an addiction, it has to mean more than you do it a lot. It has to mean that you do it in such a way that it damages your life… Almost one out of every ten youth gamers show enough symptoms of damage to their school, family, and psychological functioning to merit serious concern.

Gamers who fit the pathological classification also reported receiving lower grades, were more likely to have game systems in their bedrooms, spent an average of 24.5 hours playing each week and were more likely to have been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder.

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  1. 0
    timada says:

    I think another factor to consider is the type of games being played here, negative pathological symptoms can be associated with fighting games, but not for something like puzzle games. I think the video game industry needs more warnings about the length of time spent playing games, my brother purchased a Nintendo Wii recently and the console its self often during loading screens reminds the player to have regular breaks, which is a step forward and shows Nintendo are taking more responsibility. As far as I know Sony and Microsoft lack this clear advice on their systems.

  2. 0
    adhd tips says:

    These days I feel that the reasons my children eat the way they do (high quality raw diet), spend LOTS of time in nature and do not attend school hardly need explaining. What are they doing trying to make these innocent children sit at desks all day and be abstracted from real life? Then drugging them because they can’ t sit still. Plus of course processed/ cooked food is agitating on top of all this and compounds the problem.

  3. 0
    Wolf ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Gentile is also the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family.”

    Nuff said. Would I trust the study? With someong from NIMF on board, not on my life.

  4. 0
    Terminator44 says:

    The part that he’s working for the NIMF is the first red flag. It seems like this poll was done with a specific agenda in mind.

    I find fault with their definitions of “addicted” and “pathological play.” I mean, 18 hours a week? That’s two-and-a-half hours each day. My time spent gaming usually runs in that range. Does that mean I engage in “pathological play?” Perhaps not, because I maintain a 3.8 GPA and I certainly have a healthy relationship with my family, even though I’ve also been diagnosed with ADD. Oh, and I have two game systems in my bedroom. If these are their only criteria for addicts, then I must be a junkie. :)

    Just like so many game studies to come before it, this one is clearly trying to manipulate the results to make the numbers seems worse than they actually are. I remember something a great American author said about statistics…

  5. 0
    Blitz Fitness ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hasn’t the rest of America been addicted to television and radio too? Maybe it’s worth looking into those numbers as well. Plus, I don’t feel confident about using the term ‘clinically addicted’ when there have been a few articles lately talking about how broadly defined those issues actually are. In fact, just the other day there wan article about over-doing it when it comes to labeling people as ‘clinically’ depressed.

  6. 0
    Robb ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The study sounds reasonable in terms of game addiction correlated with poor performance at school. He even said that he was only considering those whose playing habits interfered negatively with their daily life. All of those geeky smart kids are not “addicted” as he uses the word, since they still balance their lives and school.

    The positive message from this is to understand that any activity which causes distress or lack of sleep will most likely interfere with your academics and/or career. Even though I can’t site specifics, there have been studies correlating lack of sleep with a lesser performance in school.

    Use this message and pay attention to your kids! It’s not asking a lot to make a mental note of their grades and game habits. Most parents will take away time-wasters and luxuries when grades take a downturn. If that’s riding horses, playing baseball, or playing video games, limit those activities.

    There is no doubt in my mind that “Game Addiction” will become a recognized psychological problem. It does exist, and it is obvious. Once they define Game Addiction as an actual illness, the real studies can begin in earnest and we will get better statistics.

  7. 0
    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wait. One of there symptoms is
    “have you ever played a video games as a way of escaping from problems or bad feelings”?

    Yeah, I’ve read books, fenced, slept, watched TV, written, and drawn to do the same thing to.

    Look at their symptoms on page 6.

    “Do sometimes skip house hold chores to spend more time playing videogames”

    What the hell? I’m not qualified to say this but this criteria doesn’t make any sense to me. If anything it could be applied to so many activities.

  8. 0
    Zach ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “get into physical fights,”

    Shit, I’ve played games constantly my entire life (My current favorite title is World of Warcraft, which I do play for long periods of time) and I’m a high school student who has never been in a fight in his life.

    This entire study was obviously rigged so the NIMF could push their agenda to limit the play of video games.

  9. 0
    Calvinball says:

    As was said before the other side of addiction is withdrawl. So unless someone is becoming physically ill if they don’t play are they really addicted?

    Also if these kids are so out of shape then I wouldn’t worry about their fights too much, fighting is hard work, if you’re not in decent shape the fight won’t last long. I think it would be a good lesson to some people to learn that, “No you can’t actually shoot fireballs out of your fists”

  10. 0
    Serrenity ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Really, I see no point in beating a dead horse–I agree with all the above statements. It’s amazing, I went to an ivy league school, served on 3 different committees, wrote a thesis, went to the gym daily, had a social life, and still on average, played more than 18-20hrs a week.

    I think that this study is making one solid assumption — that video games only have destructive ability. Personally, games are my escape from the real world of deadlines, family, friends–my own personal haven. Without that escape, I’m not sure that I would be nearly as functional. As for being addicted, I don’t consider myself addicted. If I don’t have time to game, I get more stressed but I don’t show symptoms of withdrawl — no shaking, no crankiness, I’m paying people by the minute to let me play their DS.

    Either GP didn’t do a sufficient job of summarizing the study, or the study is incredibly biased. Personally, I’d probably vote on a combination of the two. I think that a very minuscule number of gamers are actually addicted, but that most are using games for what are supposed to be used for — fun.

  11. 0
    Meggie ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Gamers who fit the pathological classification also reported receiving lower grades”

    That’s funny, because all if not most of the gamers I know were the “dorky smart kids” in school.

    @Shoehorn O’Plenty

    That wording stood out to me too. While filling out the survey, I’m sure the gamers recalled a time when they just couldn’t put a certain game down, so they checked the “yes” box. Little did they know their answers would be used to claim they have an addiction.

  12. 0
    janarius ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Please remember that Dr.Gentile is using diagnostic measures based on the DSM-IV-TR, so basically the researchers are using assumptions and something that is established before and that works well (?) with the current mental disorders, but IMHO not with the current cultural, sociological and technological context that is today. More research is still needed to establish a clear and reliable diagnostic measure to accurately diagnose people with addiction.

    However, the present DSM-IV does not have an official “label” for computer or video game addiction, so Dr.Gentile cannot say FOR SURE that 8.5% of those surveyed are addicted. But 23% of people are those that believe they are addicted. IMHO, so basically, 23% or more are well aware of the dangers of video game playing. But since I haven’t read the report yet. the results may be confounded by those who play MMORPGs and not just those playing single-player video games.

    Please remember, http://gamepolitics.com/2007/03/27/study-mmo-addiction-fears-overrated/#comments . Although it’s related to MMORPGs, but is nevertheless related to gaming. Dr. Charlton believed that psychology is simply using the wrong tools to diagnose addiction and has proposed his own.

    I should really start my own scientific review blog for gamers to explain the complexity of psychological research…

  13. 0
    Paul says:

    Vague survey, depends on how you want to spin it. For instance

    “Time matters because 8- to 18-year-olds who spend more time playing video games are more likely to perform more poorly in school, get into physical fights and/or be physically heavier.”

    could be reinterpreted as:

    “8- to 18-year-olds who perform more poorly in school, get into physical fights and/or are physically heavier spend more time playing video games”

    No evidence of cause and effect as usual.

  14. 0
    VioletSon says:

    “Almost one out of every ten youth gamers show enough symptoms of damage to their school, family, and psychological functioning to merit serious concern.”

    If you take the word ‘gamers’ out of the above quote, it still sounds fairly realistic. Being a kid is hard, man.

  15. 0
    Yuki says:

    ANother thing to consider is the fact that it focus’s mostly on children, when it’s a known fact that most gamers are adults.

    I work a full 40 hours a week, maintain a job, pay my bills, all that stuff. I also play games and work on my computer alot. does that mean i’m addicted?

    Doubtful. But it just goes to show that defining something like addiction is difficult to begin with, let alone with a biased agenda as nimf often has. Though recently, they have been rather doing a 180, like last years report card, where they spank parents for not doing there job.

    Regardless, nimf needs to show somehow that the results are unbiased. Personally, I doubt thats possible.

  16. 0
    Shoehorn O'Plenty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “23% report that they have felt addicted to games.”

    This is a very subjective way to gather statisitics, whether you “felt” a certain way. I have felt like killing people before when I was very angry, but I am not a killer. I have felt like screaming at work sometimes with deadlines, but have never done so. I feel addicted to World of Warcraft at times, yet I have a steady job, a girlfriend of 4 years, and an active social life.

    16 18 hours a week is not actually that much. 16-18 hours in a row…then you’ve got a problem, but in a week that’s only 2 and a bit hours a day. I used to as a child and still do, read for the same time occasionally, am I a reading addict?

    The fact that this man is the director of research for the NIMF makes it seem like a case of seeing what you want in the results you get.

  17. 0
    Konstruct says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought addiction was defined as a chemical dependency as in nicotine, heroine, and caffeine. Also we were seeing these studies with TV 20 years ago. Its no longer about addiction or obsession its about assimilation into culture. That PS2 is as apple pie now as the 3 color TVs in your house. I would love to get the government grants pulled from these chicken littles.

  18. 0
    Rob says:

    By the way, did anyone ever think that perhaps a crappy home, school, etc. environment may have caused the “addiction” to video games in the first place rather than it being the games that cause the problems in the other areas?

  19. 0
    Rob says:

    Well, even if that was true, let’s put it this way. I’d rather have my child home addicted to video games than out causing trouble or perhaps getting addicted to other forms of actually self destructive stimulants such as drugs.

  20. 0
    Muetank ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Holy C***! stuff is addicting? no way!

    Lets face it, allmost any thing is addicting. D&D, video games, TV, crack… all of it posably addicting. The word addiction gets thrown around a lot, just like the word violence. What some would see as addictive behavior, some people wouldn’t. Maybe some people can handle 24.5 hours a week playing video games and still get all there work done and live healthy lives. Some weeks i play close to 24 hours and i can still get my school work done and have a some what normal life. Just because a hand full of people died infront of there computers and consoles after a strate 98 hour grind in a game with no food and water is no reasion to whip out the evil stick on video games.

  21. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When I was growing up, I spent 18 -24 hrs a week playing tag, hide-n-seek, cops and robbers, four-square, two-square, statues, ghost int the graveyard, etc. Does that mean I was addicted to outdoor games. Not in the slightest. That means I was a kid who loved to play games.

    Kids in this age have moved beyond outdoor games and are playing video games. Nothing has changed except the games the kids play. Instead of tag and hide-n-seek they play FPS. Instead of ‘adventure’ they play RPGs. There is no difference except how they play the games.

  22. 0
    John ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    QFT, if they would do that though, television would look like total evil, since every person with a disorder watches tv

  23. 0
    BustermanZero ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Time matters because 8- to 18-year-olds who spend more time playing video games are more likely to perform more poorly in school, get into physical fights and/or be physically heavier.”

    I’m failing to see how the research supports the last two claims. Some gamers like DDR, after all, and not all games are violent.

  24. 0
    Jezebeau says:

    “Poll Indicates Game Addiction on the Rise Among Youth”

    Heavens forbid sensationalist headlining, but where does “rise” factor into the article at all? Compared to when?

    Note also that this was an online survey, which confounds the data. Kids spending their time online are more likely to be gamers, and prone to spending more time in front of a screen than the average kid.

  25. 0
    JB ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well isn’t this where parenting comes into play? Something as simple (or not so simple 😉 ) as saying No games until your homework is done! As for the weight issues… lay off the takeout, take the kids outside, you know… be a parent and have fun with the kids.

  26. 0
    Stinking Kevin says:

    Not only does the NIMF affiliation suggest some sort of “games are bad for you” results, but I believe Iowa State is also the home base of fellow data manipulist Craig “I’m Not Just Promoting My Book — This is Science!” Anderson. From how loud they’ve been shouting about them, I’m guessing these anti-game studies have meant big publicity (and big money) for the school.

    The biggest problem I have with “soft science” like this is not that we can’t learn from the studies — we can. It’s that the soft science studies can be designed in a way to provide whatever results are desired, and the social scientist community seldom seems willing to publicly discriminate between experiments for edification and experiments for hire.

    To paraphrase a few spot-on comments already made here: Let me be the guy who supplies the working definition for “addiction” and I can prove that pretty much anyone is addicted to pretty much anything.

  27. 0
    G-Dog says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The more socially crippled shut-ins there are in the world = less competition for me and my son when job hunting.

    Let the idiots waste their lives play WOW and Halo if they want to, at least they aren’t mugging old ladies for drug money.

  28. 0
    Snakestream ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This research is completely retarded. Looking at the questions, one can immediately notice a general subjectiveness or vagueness in them. Questions such as, “Compared to other students of your age, how much do you believe you are influenced by the violence in video games you play?” with responses of “A lot less influenced than other students of my age,” and “A lot more influenced than students of my age,” literally SCREAMS subjectivity. Almost all of the questions exhibit this general subjectiveness, and Gentile’s basis of clarification, the DSM-IV, is meant for psychological problems, which a cultural phenomenon hardly qualifies for.

    In addition, his “definition” of “pathological gamers” is woefully inadequate. I would like to question where his control of “non-pathological gamers” came from, but from what I see, his results are contradictory. The non-pathological gamers claimed to only play once or twice a week, but they clocked around twelve hours a week, or six hours a day. The pathological gamers clocked twenty-four hours a week, but they played five or six times a week, averaging four to five hours a day. This PROVES that Gentile’s data is ridiculously slanted, and this is just what he CHOSE to publish.

    Personally, I qualify for his “pathological gamer” section: I play almost every day of the week, and I clock around five hours a day. However, I read, a lot, and I manage to get mostly A’s with a sprinkling of B’s. I am in the Top 10 percentile of my class, and I scored a 2230 on my recent SAT test. I exercise almost every day, I run three times a week, and I am on friendly terms with most of the people in my class. What happened to Gentile’s prediction that I would be a fat, unintelligent, anti-social freak?

  29. 0
    Pencilposer says:

    Although I don’t agree with Prof. Gentile, He is a man of professionalism, and as a former student who has had to listen to these arguements before, they are based in solid fact. I have been in his class going, I see what he is talking about. Whether the study is biased or not, The fact still remains that there is some basis for it. No matter how small the margin of people who fit into it are.

  30. 0
    Serrenity ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My favorite Criteria:

    7. Do you sometimes skip doing homework in order to spend more time playing a video game?

    ha. ha. ha.

    Do you sometimes? How about frequently? Still graduated with 3.3 GPA Cum Laude from a reputable college, clearly video games are having a negative affect on me.

    I amend my earlier statement: The study is total rubbish, and GP did the best they could with the drivel thats making soft claims and at best hearsay support for ideas to which they apply neither direct nor indirect correlation. Drivel is a very generous term for this blatant attempt at anti-video game propaganda.

  31. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I love Joystiq’s math that combines both studies:


    “The Swinburne study seems to define “stable” as non-hyper. So, considering that about 7% of children are currently diagnosed with ADHD, presumably about 0.6% of America’s young people (percentage of ADHD-diagnosed kids addicted to games) pose a potential threat to society. A small percentage no doubt, but with a reported 73.5 million children in the US in 2005, we could be living among something like 450,000 latent killer gamers — hit the panic button!”

  32. 0

    […] When combined, a pair of new studies (conveniently stacked on GamePolitics.com) suggests that game addiction is a rising concern among American youth, but, if we also trust Aussie researchers, violent side effects are not. According to a new Harris poll, 8.5% of the US’s youngsters are now clinically addicted to games, and as many as 23% have felt the jonesing itch for a fix. Thankfully, Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology has published findings which indicate that violent games (’cause let’s face it, violent games are the kind American tweens get lifted on) don’t increase the likelihood of a “stable” child becoming more aggressive. […]

  33. 0
    Stinking Kevin says:

    The very notion that one can hide bias behind “professionalism” is exactly the sort of thing that gives all social sciences a bad name in my book. The “professionals” can’t find enough common ground for measurable standards, so instead they contradict one another by publishing conflicting studies with results that are pre-determined by design.

    I disagree as strongly as possible with the suggestion that studies like this are valid if there is any truth to them at all. Each half truth is also a half falsehood. Keep telling me half-truths and soon I’ll stop believing you all together. There is no room for bias in real science, and anyone who’s ever taken any science class at all should know that.

    Call it “professionalism” if you want, but it sure as hell ain’t “science.”

  34. 0
    Vigi says:

    Janarius, I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Would it be disingenuous to toss a little correlation/causation into the mix? I hope not, because I already did.

  35. 0
    Deathnote29 says:

    Think about it. If people start to support this study, and others like it, we could see as many gamer rehabs in the country as there are for alcohol and drugs. We’ll all be sitting in our nice white rooms, watching a blank wall, moving our fingers like we’re holding a controller and playing our own imaginary video game.

  36. 0
    Mnementh2230 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m going to blame this one on lack of parental involvement. The types of parents who read GamePolitics aren’t the type to let their kids go over the deep end – it’s the ones who are using their PCs as pseud-parents we have to worry about.

  37. 0
    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I already do that in half my large lecture classes. Then i tend to right down what i was imagining and if i can i try to program it.

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