Nearly 1 in 10 male gamers between the ages of 12 and 15 is addicted to playing video games. This is the conclusion of Regina van den Eijnden, youth researcher at Utrecht University. “Girls of the same age are much less likely to be addicted to games. Less than 1 percent of game-playing girls shows signs of addiction.” Van den Eijnden presented her statistics on Tuesday afternoon, 5 April, during the symposium 'Prevention of problematic gaming: The next level’ of the Trimbos Institute.
The researcher from Utrecht collected data on the gaming behaviour of almost 2,000 teenagers at the beginning of this year. The collected statistics reveal that nearly all boys between the ages of 12 and 15 occasionally play games. Van den Eijnden: “95% of the boys states that they play games, compared to 75% of the girls.” No distinction has been made with regard to the media used to play games. “No, all devices were included - from smartphones to consoles.”
More than 4 hours a day
There is also a clear difference between the number of hours that boys and girls spend playing games. While girls spend an average of 4.5 hours a week playing games, boys spend an average of 16 hours a week gaming. Van den Eijnden also states that boys who meet the criteria for gaming addiction play for many more hours: “29 hours a week. That amounts to more than 4 hours a day.”
Quarrelling due to gaming behaviour
Should everyone who plays games 4 hours a day therefore be considered an addict? “No, that's not how it works”, clarifies Van den Eijnden. In 2013, the handbook for the classification of mental disorders, DSM 5, took the first step towards identifying gaming addiction. Nine criteria are listed under the heading Internet Gaming Disorder. If a person meets five of these nine criteria, he or she can be classified as having this so-called disorder. “Using these criteria, we asked the teenagers if, for example, they ever quarrel with others due their gaming behaviour and if they conceal the time they spend playing games from others.”
According to the scientist from Utrecht, there are two groups of boys that run a greater risk of becoming addicted to games. “One group consists of boys with concentration problems, such as ADHD. The other consists of boys who indicate that they have trouble establishing meaningful friendships.” Van den Eijnden points out that the latter group has an additional problem. “These boys without meaningful friendships only become more socially isolated due to their gaming addiction.”
What can you do about it?
On Tuesday 5 April, the Trimbos Institute launched a website that informs parents about the gaming behaviour of teenagers. The (Dutch) site, hoepakjijdataan.nl, provides them with advice on how to recognise and limit the problematic gaming behaviour of their children.