The World Health Organization (WHO) has included “gaming disorder” in its draft of the latest International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
WHO defines gaming disorder as a “behavior pattern” that causes “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” It’s a mental health condition where the individual has “impaired control” over video-gaming, so much so that it takes over the person’s daily activities and other interests.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the effects brought about by the excessive video-gaming behavior should be evident for at least 12 months. If the symptoms are severe, however, the required duration may be shortened, the draft stated.
The 11th, most recent revision of ICD is set to be published mid-2018. The ICD is “used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions,” said WHO.
“We know that [excessive gaming] does look like it's a real problem for some people, and it does cause serious dysfunction for some people,” said Douglas A. Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, to CNN. The inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD is a “good thing,” he said.
The American Psychiatric Association is also considering adding their version of gaming disorder, which they termed as “Internet Gaming Disorder,” to its manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, CNN reported.
Pediatricians are concerned as well.A report entitled "Internet Gaming Disorder in Children and Adolescents"(published in the journal Pediatrics in November 2017) showed a Singaporean study that involved 3,000 children in elementary and secondary schools. Nine percent of the students were “classified as suffering from IGD.”
The authors stated, “Parents need to be directly involved with their child’s use of media and need to ensure that children have ample media-free time and access to nongaming creative play opportunities.”
Many studies have been conducted with the aim of shedding light on the effects the digital age has brought upon both young and old. In children, experts have coined the term “Screen Dependency Disorder” (SDD), which refers to screen-related “addictive” behavior, according to research by US-based psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman.
Children as young as 3 or 4 years old can have SDD, Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, a Family Life and Child Development specialist and Early Childhood Education consultant, told SmartParenting.com.ph. SDD Symptoms are wide, ranging from the physical to the psychological, including insomnia, poor nutrition, anxiety, feelings of guilt and loneliness.
Avelino-Tandoc said that kids with SDD grab their device the moment they wake up and eat at the table with their eyes glued to the screen, playing games, watching shows, or manipulating apps.
Explained Dr. Sigman, SDD can even cause brain damage in young children. “As is the case with substance addictions, it is possible that intensive routine exposure to certain screen activities during critical stages of neural development may alter gene expression resulting in structural, synaptic and functional changes in the developing brain.”
“[Parents] should be alarmed when regular family routine or tasks cannot be performed by the child anymore because he or she cannot be 'taken out' from screen time,” said Avelino-Tandoc. “The parents or caregivers should supply the doctor with their child’s behavior as they have observed at home. He may also have his own set of tests and questions for both the parents and the child.”
If you see symptoms of any of these disorders in your child, talk to a medical professional.