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Are there studies that demonstrate that gaming is more addictive than watching movies or tv shows?
There's this article that talks about dopamine and rewards. It makes sense, but are there similar studies? Any involving tv shows instead of movies?
To answer your question directly, there are so much different factors involved in addiction to games and movies, that I don't believe any study could cover the whole thing. We can, though, try to identify the factors that are different and study them individually.
The fundamental difference between movies/series and games, the one thing that separates more these types of entertainment than anything else, is the following:
"Mechanics in games imply the need for the player as an active part of the whole system, instead of a mere spectator"
Some factors involve personalizing your character, items and environment. Since people value more to the things they themselves made, they attach to the part of the game that has been designed for them (their characters, their items, etc). It makes them a whole lot more engaged in the process. Providing some personalization to the customer has been used a lot in marketing in order, for example, to sell cake mixes.
"When we talk to people who bake with mixes, they consider themselves every bit the scratch baker as someone who doesn't use a mix,"
"This decorating obsession sold the idea that, this way, you're making this cake yours."
This type of incentive cannot be applied to movies or series, since the spectator cannot have an effect on the outcome of the scenario. He's a passive observator, probably less attached to the outcome as well.
For MMO's or games where you can share your scores online, Envy and pride are also big motivators. These are feelings you rarely have while watching a movie, since your experience is the same as everyone else watching the movie. You can have a leader-board that shows you who's best, you can have multiple stats on which people can compare, you can even have purchasable cosmetic items to put on your character and show other people!
In-game or in-app purchases for cosmetic items and customization options rake in a lot of money, and developers go to great lengths to make sure that players see all the cool stuff that their teammates and opponents have acquired.
Although I only mentioned a few, there are a lot of other factors that influence addiction and that are distinct from the ones seen in movies or TV series. I don't think there is one answer, but you can develop form there and add to this discussion.
Again, the main difference between the two types of media mentioned in this question is the role of the consumer. In games, it is an active part of the experience, an actor bound to the media by causality. In Movies, it is a passive spectator and does not hold any power to influence the outcome. This is a good starting point in order to study addiction to both forms of entertainment.
Probably YES and here is why - if you playing games you have your hero which is more connected with you because you do some things in the game by him as YOU (your EGO).
You can also read newest book of Philip Zimbardo - where are these mans? In his book he talk about it. It's interesting that boys can be more addicted from the games and girls can more addicted from the movies and TV series. It's interesting question.
Some companies make experiments when they create game because they want to addicted players - their clients because more clients means more money for their company.
Effects Of TV On Your Brain
In this article, I present to you a brief summary of the main findings that I have come across with additional commentary of points of interest.
There is so much more that could be discussed, so please consider this summary as a starting point from which you can use to direct your own future research. For this purpose, I have provided a list of references which can be found at the bottom of this page.
Some of you may find the following information shocking. So be aware that when confronted with such information it is a natural human tendency to deny (i.e., say it isn’t true or make fun of), reject (i.e., refuse to consider) or repress (i.e., try to forget about) that information.
These are natural psychological defence mechanisms which, in some cases, can be useful. But most of the time they will result in much more serious long-term consequences by causing you not to address issues of concern.
Is This Video A Sick Insider Joke By The Media?
Before you begin reading about the effects that watching television has on your brain, have a look at the following video below:
The video that you have just seen uses a clever technique found in the fields of marketing, advertising and persuasion.
It makes fun of a series of factual statements so that they are entertaining but are unlikely to be taken seriously, or seen as facts, by the viewer. The inclusion of aliens further helps to discredit the factual information provided. Interestingly, many of the issues the video makes fun off are actually serious points discussed in this article.
So How Does TV Affect The Brain?
Below you will find listed some of the main ways that TV can affect your brain:
1) Hypnotic State
The brain slips into a hypnotic state within seconds of watching TV.
Watching TV puts the viewer into a highly suggestible sleep-like hypnotic state. This provides easy access to the subconscious and is one reason why it’s easy to fall asleep whilst watching television.
The hypnotic effect is largely caused by screen flicker which lowers your brainwaves into an alpha state, a state of mind you would normally associate with meditation or deep relaxation. In most people, this occurs within 30 seconds, or within 3 minutes for very light and infrequent TV viewers.
Prove It To Yourself
Watch the following clip and see if you can count how many passes the white team makes:
In a hypnotic state, the information which you are exposed to will be downloaded directly to your subconscious mind where it will alter existing beliefs and form new beliefs without you even being aware of it.
This has obvious implications for marketers who wish to sell the viewer their product, as is shown in the television commercial below which is advertising to advertisers the benefits of TV advertising.
Note: In this video, a person is being put under hypnosis and is recalling slogans from famous British television adverts.
2) Lack of Critical Analysis
Television reduces your ability to think critically.
When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain (responsible for logical thought and critical analysis) to the right side.
This is significant because the right side of the brain tends not to critically analyze incoming information. Instead, it uses an emotional response which results in little or no analysis of the information. In other words, this is like someone telling you something and you believing what they say without doing your own research.
For this reason, people who watch a lot of TV tend to have a very inaccurate and unrealistic view of reality.
TV can create both a physical and psychological addiction.
Watching TV causes the body to release chemicals which make it feel good. These are endorphins, a natural sedative with similar properties to heroin. It is therefore not only possible, but probable, to become physically addicted to TV. This ensures constant daily exposure, a critical factor needed to program the mind.
A person who is unable to view their favorite television program is likely to display similar withdrawal symptoms to a drug addict. They may become angry, anxious, and will go to great lengths to see their program. The saying “got my daily fix of (insert your favorite show)” holds more truth than most people realize.
Don’t believe me? Try not watching TV for a month, or even a week, and see how long you can last!
4) Reduction In Higher Brain Functions
Are you a TV head?
TV viewing reduces higher brain activity, promoting activity in lower brain regions. In other words, it makes you less intelligent and behave more like an animal.
Advertisers target a region of the brain known as the reptilian brain. This is an ancient part of the brain which is responsible for primitive and primal urges such as sex, feeding and power. These themes are commonly used in advertising campaigns to make you think that you need a particular product.
The most common way this is done is by making you think that your life will somehow be better with the advertised product, and that without the product, you or your life is inadequate.
More information about the reptilian brain can be found here.
Crucially, TV viewing results in the frontal lobe region of the brain becoming underdeveloped through disuse. This is important because the frontal lobe deals with impulse control.
So with an underdeveloped frontal lobe, you become less able to control your behavior. This can result in uncontrollable angry outbursts, or a lack of self-discipline in one’s life. Luckily, reading strengthens the frontal lobe which helps to reverse the damage caused by watching TV.
5) TV Rots Your Brain
TV will do more than just rot your brain. It will eat it too!
Your brain is more active when you are sleeping than when you are watching television. Since the health of your brain is largely determined by how much you actively use it, watching too much television can therefore have a detrimental effect on the health of your brain.
One of the reasons why brain activity is so low when watching television is because you don’t really have to do any thinking. When you read, for example, you have to mentally create images of what you are reading. This requires significant brain power to do. So when you are reading, you are effectively exercising your brain.
Note: Reading may help to offset/protect against some of the harmful effects television has on the brain.
The saying “TV rots your brain” has more truth to it than you might imagine. Excessive television viewing has also been linked to degenerative brain disorders later in life such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
6) Short Attention SpanDo you have a short attention span?
Excessive television viewing can cause a person to develop a short attention span and increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. This is thought to be due to the frequent scene changes that occur with modern-day video edits.
If you compare an old film, such as from the 1940s or 1950s with films of today, for example, you will notice that older movies had much longer scene changes.
Frequent scene changes/cuts are used because it activates what is known as an “orienting response”. This is a natural biological response which automatically draws your attention to things which change in your environment. The purpose of this is for survival, so that you are quickly alerted to possible dangers in your environment.
The more scene changes there are, the more this response is activated, and the more your attention will be held. However, cuts which occur too frequently can make a video difficult to follow and may even may you feel sick.
Note: A “scene change” is when you notice a continuous video segment cut to another video segment. For example, a video of someone’s face cutting to a video of the background or to another person.
Try It Yourself: Watch the first video clip at the top of the page again and see how many scene changes/cuts you notice. For a long movie, you probably will not be able to count them all due to the rapid hypnotic state your brain is put into which greatly reduces your ability to think logically.
7) Increased Risk of Death
He’s coming for you!
Numerous studies, such as this one, have reported that television viewing is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes.
This may be due to a lack of physical activity associated with television viewing, or as a result of the physical degeneration of the brain. It is not known for certain though, why TV increases the risk of death or by what means.
8) Impaired Brain Development in ChildrenWhoever said TV wasn’t educational?
Watching television appears to be especially harmful for children as their brain has not yet fully developed. Increased television viewing in children tends to impair frontal lobe development. This region of the brain is responsible for impulse control and one’s ability to concentrate.
Thus damage to, or retardation of, the frontal lobe can result in a child who acts socially inappropriately (i.e. exhibits anti-social behavior), and finds it difficult to concentrate and learn at school.
More information about how TV stunts brain development in children can be found here.
What attracts people to violent movies?
Why are audiences attracted to bloodshed, gore and violence? A recent study from researchers at the University of Augsburg, Germany and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people are more likely to watch movies with gory scenes of violence if they felt there was meaning in confronting violent aspects of real life.
Anne Bartsch, University of Augsburg, Germany and Louise Mares, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will present their findings at the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Their study examined whether these serious, contemplative, and truth-seeking motivations for exposure to violent portrayals are more than just an intellectual pleasure. They invited a large binational sample from Germany and the US (total of 482 participants), ranging in age from 18-82, and with varying levels of education. Participants viewed film trailers featuring different levels of gore and meaningfulness, and rated their likelihood of watching the full movie. They also indicated their perceptions of the film (how gory, meaningful, thought-provoking, suspenseful, etc.).
Earlier studies have suggested that audiences are not necessarily attracted to violence per se, but seem to be drawn to violent content because they anticipate other benefits, such as thrill and suspense.
These findings suggest that such hedonistic pleasures are only part of the story about why we willingly expose ourselves to scenes of bloodshed and aggression. Some types of violent portrayals seem to attract audiences because they promise to satisfy truth-seeking motivations by offering meaningful insights into some aspect of the human condition.
"Perhaps depictions of violence that are perceived as meaningful, moving and thought-provoking can foster empathy with victims, admiration for acts of courage and moral beauty in the face of violence, or self-reflection with regard to violent impulses," said Bartsch. "Examining the prevalence of such prosocial responses and the conditions under which they occur offers a theoretically intriguing and socially valuable direction for further work."
‘The more I played, the more depressed I got. But the more depressed I got, the more I played.’
— Nate Bowman (right), 20, photographed with Wren Viele (left), 18, in September at reStart’s campus in Carnation, Wash.
Shortly after Bracke’s employers put him on probation, his parents, Sally and Steve, visited him in Virginia. One day, while driving back from the grocery store, Sally worked up the courage to ask her son a question that had been troubling her for some time: “Charlie, are you a gaming addict?” She was terrified of using that word — “addict” — terrified that Bracke would perceive it as an accusation and that their relationship would suffer for it. Bracke contemplated the question silently for a long time as they drove. In truth, the thought had occurred to him, but he had never taken it seriously, let alone said it out loud. Finally he answered: “Yeah, I think I might be.” Back home, he found an online questionnaire that assessed whether someone was an alcoholic. Wherever the quiz mentioned drinking, Bracke substituted gaming. He needed to answer yes to only a few of the questions to qualify as an addict he affirmed almost all of them.
In the spring of 2015, Bracke was officially kicked off his real estate team. That summer, he stayed at his brother Alex’s house to take care of the dogs while Alex and his wife and son were on vacation. On the first day of his stay, he suddenly realized that his brother’s life — the home, the family, the steady job and income — was everything he wanted and would never have. It was a startling epiphany and the prelude to a period of profound self-loathing. He discontinued his antidepressants because he didn’t think he deserved them. He stopped bathing regularly. He left his brother’s house just twice in nine days, to grab snacks and frozen pizzas from a nearby grocery store. Gaming was the only thing that distracted him from his mental anguish. Nothing felt as good as gaming nothing else felt good.
By August, he had a detailed suicide plan. He decided he would kill himself in November, around the same time of year his grandmother died that way, he reasoned, his mother would have to endure only one morbid anniversary. About two months before Bracke intended to take his own life, his parents returned to Virginia to celebrate their grandchild’s birthday. They surprised Bracke with a visit one afternoon. Although they knew their son was struggling, they didn’t know the extent of it. They were shocked at the state of his apartment — cluttered with clothes, trash and empty pizza boxes — and Bracke’s own bedraggled appearance. He knew his gaming had become a terrible problem, he told them, but he felt powerless to stop.
In the following weeks, Sally called every rehab center and addiction hotline number she could find, searching for a program that recognized video-game addiction and knew how to treat it. Every single center turned her away, saying they didn’t offer treatment for her son’s condition. She called so many organizations — some of which used the same telephone switchboards — that she ended up speaking to certain individuals multiple times without realizing it. One day, an exasperated operator interrupted her sobs to tell her that they had already spoken and that he had some good news: His supervisor had recently mentioned a new rehab center in Washington State called reStart, which specialized in internet and video-game addiction.
Bracke and his parents were overjoyed to have finally found some recourse — but the price was staggering. It would cost about $22,000 for the minimum stay of 45 days, and their health insurance wouldn’t cover it. (At the time, there was no official diagnostic code for gaming addiction.) “I remember at one point saying we don’t know how we can afford this, and at the same time we don’t know how we can afford not to,” Bracke’s father told me. Ultimately, they decided to remortgage their house.
In the 1950s, the American psychologist James Olds and the Canadian neuroscientist Peter Milner performed a landmark experiment. They implanted electrodes in various parts of rats’ brains and placed the animals in boxes equipped with levers. Whenever the rats pressed a lever, their brains received a brief jolt of electricity. Zapping some areas of the brain did not change the animals’ behavior, whereas stimulation in other regions seemed to make them avoid the levers. When the researchers placed electrodes near a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, something remarkable happened: The rats became fixated on the levers, pressing them as often as 80 times a minute for as long as 24 consecutive hours. Olds, Milner and other scientists showed that rats would gallop uphill, leap hurdles and even forsake food in order to keep stimulating that region of the brain. It seemed that science had located the brain’s pleasure center, the hypothesized area that made it feel so good to do things conducive to survival and reproduction, like having sex or eating calorie-rich meals. Perhaps, some scientists proposed, addictive drugs had some effect on this same area.
In the following decades, as the tools of neuroscience improved, researchers formed a more complete map of the brain’s reward system, which is a constellation of neural circuits involved in attention, motivation, desire and learning. Studies revealed that healthy rats became obsessed with drug-dispensing levers, but rats whose reward circuits had been disrupted showed little to no interest. Related experiments singled out the neurotransmitter dopamine as the most important chemical messenger in the reward system, demonstrating how certain addictive drugs drastically increased the amount of the dopamine traveling between neurons. With neuroimaging techniques developed in the 1990s, scientists could watch the brain’s reward center respond almost instantly to an injected drug and examine how the brain’s structure and behavior changed with continued use. In parallel, scores of studies identified heritable gene sequences that seemed to be associated with an increased risk for addiction.
These findings formed the core of what has come to be called the brain-disease model of addiction, which has been embraced by most major health organizations, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Medical Association. According to this model, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain’s reward system caused by continual exposure to particular substances and the dopamine release they trigger. The brain compensates by producing less dopamine in general and becoming less sensitive to it over all, forcing the user to take even larger doses to experience the same level of reward — a development known as tolerance. The neurochemical chaos produced by continued drug use also degrades the neural pathways that connect the reward center to the prefrontal cortex, which is crucial for planning, managing emotions and controlling impulses. The longer an addiction progresses, the higher someone’s tolerance, the stronger their cravings and the harder it may be to quit without relapsing.
From the 1990s to the late 2000s, neuroscientists demonstrated that many of the neurobiological changes underlying drug addiction occurred in pathological gamblers as well. For most of the 20th century, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a disorder of impulse control — more related to compulsive tics than to addiction. As scientists developed a more sophisticated understanding of the biology underlying addiction, however, many mental-health experts began to change their minds. Like certain drugs, gambling elicits a surge of dopamine in the reward circuit. Over time, compulsive gambling diminishes the ability to experience reward and inhibits circuits in the prefrontal cortex that are crucial for impulse control.
Studies of Parkinson’s disease provided further confirmation. Between 3 and 6 percent of people with Parkinson’s are compulsive gamblers, which is substantially higher than the estimate of 0.25 to 2 percent of the general population. Parkinson’s, which results in part from the death of dopamine-secreting neurons in the midbrain, is sometimes treated with the drug levodopa, which increases the amount of dopamine in the brain and nervous system. Some researchers have proposed that by raising dopamine levels, levodopa essentially mimics certain aspects of addiction, making the brain more susceptible to risk-taking and compulsive behavior. In 2013, after reviewing the mounting evidence, the American Psychiatric Association moved gambling disorder to the addictions section of the D.S.M.
In the last 10 years, scientists have been making similar discoveries about compulsive gaming. Neuroimaging studies have confirmed that video games trigger a release of dopamine in the reward circuit and that dopamine does not behave as it should in the brains of compulsive gamers. In a study performed in China, frequent gamers displayed unusually low activity in their reward circuits when anticipating a monetary prize. Some researchers think an inherently unresponsive reward system predisposes people to addiction by pushing them to seek big thrills others interpret it as an early sign of tolerance. Last year, the psychologist Daria J. Kuss, part of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, and her colleagues published a review of 27 studies investigating the neurobiological correlates of compulsive gaming. They concluded that, compared with healthy individuals, compulsive gamers exhibit worse memory, poorer decision-making skills, impaired emotion regulation, inhibited prefrontal cortex functioning and disrupted electrochemical activity in their reward circuits — all similar to what researchers have documented in people with drug addictions.
“I don’t think we as psychologists can be justified in saying gaming addiction doesn’t exist,” Kuss told me. “From my experience of researching it for over 10 years, I can tell you I am very sure that this is indeed a real addiction requiring professional help.”
There’s a danger, though, in making neuroscience the ultimate arbiter of addiction. In the past decade, many researchers have argued persuasively that the brain-disease model of addiction has gained more prominence than it deserves. Neuroscientists have discovered that the relationship between the reward circuit and addiction is much more convoluted than is typically acknowledged. It turns out, for example, that only some addictive drugs, namely cocaine and amphetamine, dependably provoke huge releases of dopamine many others — including nicotine and alcohol — do so inconsistently or hardly at all. Moreover, dopamine is not as closely linked to pleasure as once thought it is much more important for wanting than liking, for anticipating or seeking out a reward than for enjoying it. And dopamine is involved in far more than reward and motivation it is also important for memory, movement and immune-system regulation. But the explanatory power of neurobiology is so appealing that the basic tenets of the brain-disease model have seeped into public consciousness, popularizing a somewhat reductive understanding of addiction.
Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and Yale University lecturer, puts it this way: “Addiction is not a brain problem. It’s a human problem.” Derek Heim, an addiction psychologist at Edge Hill University in England, agrees completely: “People get very excited when they see pictures of a brain, but we’ve overextended that explanation. We need to think of addiction as an extremely multifaceted problem.” Video-game addiction perfectly exemplifies this multiplicity. It’s not just a biological phenomenon — it’s a cultural one too.
Psychology of the Web & Internet Addiction
A GUIDE for parents and other adults who are concerned about how much young people spend on the computer (social networking sites, such as Facebook, instant messaging or online games) or those who want to learn more about Internet Addiction and Internet Gaming Addiction.
Presented by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. (Digital Immigrant * ) & Azzia Walker, B.A. (Digital Native * )
Parents who see their children spend many hours every day on their computers, cell phones, and PlayStations are understandably distressed and concerned. They often tell their children:
- You’re wasting your time on the computer!
- Stop checking your Facebook and email every 2 minutes and start concentrating on your homework!
- You’re wasting your life playing these meaningless online games!
- Stop all these chats and texts, you need sleep!
- You are going to fail school if you keep this up.
- You fry your brain with all this technology. Read a book!
- Spend some time in the real world!
- Don’t you have regular friends?
- Why don’t you play sports any more?
- What are you doing on the computer all day?!
- Get a life!
On Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives
The terms “digital immigrants” and “Digital natives” was reportedly originally coined by Mark Prensky. Generally, these terms designate people born in the digital era (Generation X and more recent, Digital Natives) and people born before the digital era (Baby Boomers and older, Digital Immigrants). It is important to realize that not all digital immigrants and not all digital natives are created equal. While most digital natives are tech savvy by default of their being born around technology, others do not have a knack for technology and computers, nor an inclination. Similarly, Digital Immigrants fall into three major groups: Avoiders, Reluctant Adopters and Enthusiastic Adopters. We have all met avoiders, so prefer a lifestyle that leaves them relatively technology-free or minimal-technology. They tend to have a land-line, but no cell phone or email account. Reluctant adopters realize technology is a part of today’s world, and they try to engage with it, but it feels alien and unintuitive. Enthusiastic adopters are the Immigrants who have the potential to keep up with Natives, due to their ease, capacity, and interest in using technology. These category distinctions are important, because the Native/Immigrant divide is one of generations – people were either born in the digital era or they were not. People have more control over which category within their generation they fall into.
Differences Between the Generations
Older – Digital Immigrants
Prefer to talk on phone or in person
Prefer synchronistic communication
Accustomed to and like manuals with clear steps
Assume they will work their way up the ladder in the workplace, in a linear fashion, in one career.
Hang out in person, clubs, dinners, etc.
Tell friends about a trip on the phone, or with an in-person slideshow
Use the Internet to gather information
Think young people waste their lives online
Think of the Internet as not “real life”
One task or pleasure at a time
Safety concerns: Physical kidnapping, assault, robbery
Prefer to connect via text, chat, Facebook, games, etc.
Text more than call: 47% of teens can text with eyes closed
Prefer a-synchronistic (sequential)communication
Cannot relate to manuals – They figure it out intuitively
Try many careers, want balance among family, friends, activities, work. Prefer flexible hours, opportunity to make up work remotely, i.e., from a café on a weekend.
Hang out online in chats, social networking sites and games
Use texting and instant message shorthand: cu tomorrow luv ya, ru going to the game?
Tell friends about a trip by posting an album online
Use the web to socialize, play, watch videos, shows, etc.
Many aspects of life are happening only online
Internet is as real, and often more pleasurable, than offline life
Several tasks or recreation activities at a time: Watch television, text, study.
Safety concerns: Sexting, inappropriate pictures online, cyber stalking, identity theft, privacy invasions (hijacking of email accounts, social networking sites)
Summary of the Complexities, Differences, Problem
- Some young people spend too much time in front of the screen, up to 20 hours a day. Spending countless hours a day, every day, on the Internet or online gaming can interfere with young people’s emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual development.
- Unlike older generations, the younger generations often socialize, hang out, and communicate online rather than in person. They usually text rather than talk on the phone, and often prefer to hang out on Twitter or Facebook rather than in the local bar, on the street or at the town square.
- Unlike older generations, young people are highly capable of effective multitasking, which appears to the older generation as lack of attention and lack of focus.
- Around the world there are alarming reports of Internet Addiction. For example, in Korea there have been 10 cardiopulmonary-related deaths in Internet cafés. The U.S. and the west often show similar stats, with 9% of U.S. Internet users hiding their non-essential Internet use.
- While the older generations may primarily use the Internet to gather important information and follow up on important news, younger generations use the Internet for communication, fun and gaming, to find out about each other, information-gathering, view videos, listen to music, blog, chat, share links, read news, shop, and “surf.”
- The older/parent generation, being digital immigrants, view all these online activities and multitasking as a waste of time and lack of focus. They do not understand the value of online social networking, the learning that takes place in online games, the capacity of young people to multitask, and the enormous fun, pleasure and sense of community that young people derive from these activities.
Certain subjects make most parents upset, concerned and, yes, self-righteous: Parents witness their children doing homework while text messages are flying, videos are streaming, Facebook profiles are updated, Twitter is checked every couple minutes, Internet browsers are open, the loud rock music is blaring from iTunes. On top of all that, many children need to ALSO deal with nagging parents complaining about their multitasking.
The Truth About Multitasking
Most people multitask when they drive and talk on the phone or watch TV while on the treadmill at the gym. When it comes to more complex tasks, the truth is that most of the time people do not really multitask, they just think they do. The brain can’t process two high or complex levels of cognitive tasks simultaneously. When it comes to complex tasks, the brain oscillates between the two or more tasks or, one may say, the brain ‘hops’ from task to task to task. Young people’s brains seem to be able to hop better and faster between tasks than those of older people. Younger people’s reaction times are naturally faster, and this aptitude has been conditioned by the techno-culture in which they grew up. The brains of digital natives, which are known to have high levels of plasticity, have adjusted to perform seamlessly on these multitasks.
Intuitively, it seems that those who intensely multitask are not likely to comprehend, digest, and remember well the important information they read or hear while multitasking. However, research on the effects of multitasking on retention and comprehension is still in its infancy and we do not yet have conclusive results on the issue. A recent experiment in Stanford University concluded that multitaskers are not even very good in…multitasking (see a brief summary of experiment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zuDXzVYZ68). Regardless, some Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley companies have instituted what they call the “Topless Meeting,” which refers to gatherings where laptops and other mobile devices, like Blackberries and iPhones, are banned in order to increase participants’ focus, attention, and productivity.
The Generational Clash Crisis
When concerned, worried, or frightened parents yell, nag, criticize, threaten or take the computer away, crisis ensues. Parents, digital immigrants, are concerned for the welfare of their children, do not understand their children’s online lives, and are frightened that the kids waste their lives with “meaningless” online activities and gaming. They are concerned that their kids will fail or drop out of school and worried that the Internet or games may ruin their children’s lives like they hear on the news.
On the other hand, children, digital natives, feel misunderstood and alienated by their parents. From a child or teen’s perspective, they are simply making use of and enjoying the wide array of technological gadgets and toys available to them. Telling them not to is similar to telling a literature lover not to like books, or an avid runner to stay inside. It doesn’t make sense to them and feels like an intrusion.
At times, when parents take away the computer or disconnect the Internet, some youngster has responded with violence towards the computer, themselves or even their parents. Others have fallen into depression. Most of the time, children find other ways to connect to the Web and play games. They may simply do it at a friend’s house and, in many countries, at Internet cafés.
Cycle of Parents’ Ineffective Behavior
Use and Abuse of the Internet and Gaming
On Internet Addiction and Online Gaming Addiction
Experts debate whether Internet Addiction or Online Gaming Addiction can be viewed similarly to drug and alcohol addiction. Some have likened it more to a gambling addiction or shopping addiction because they do not involve actual drug addiction, development of physiological tolerance and the drug/chemical withdrawal.
The Phasic view of Internet use discusses research findings where the behavior does not escalate to a harmful place but, instead, is self-correcting. This view includes four phases:
The addiction model discusses Internet use and gaming as an escalation of:
The addiction model describes these seven stages:
- Normal use
- Excessive use: School, social and work time, and resources used for gaming and web surfing. Staying up past normal bedtime
- Minimizing offline life through less time and attention to sports, reading, community, and family
- Using the Internet to fill (almost) all emotional, social, and/or sexual needs
- Out of balance, obsessed, extremely invested in online life rather than offline life
- Denial of consequences for one’s behavior
- Increased harm as a result of excessive time and energy spent online
The term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite “harmful or undesirable consequences.” It often includes:
- Psychological or physical dependence
- Cannot do without
- Excessive focus, use, or behavior
- Psychological or Physical Dependency
- Interferes with “normal” life functioning
There is debate as to whether the Internet and games are addictive. This debate asks the question of whether Internet Addiction is truly a Psychiatric Disorder or a Mental Illness.
For now, American Psychiatric Association elected not to include it in upcoming (2012) Diagnostic manual, known as the DSM-5, which means that Internet Addiction or Gaming Addiction, for now, are not considered mental disorders. Even so, it is fair to say that excessive use of the Internet and gaming can be highly problematic, out of control, disruptive, and self-destructive.
Online Gaming – An Informed View
There are a growing number of researchers, gaming experts, psychologists, computer scientists, educators and sociologists who view online gaming as inherently educational and ultimately helpful in preparing players for productive engagement in our technological society. They view gaming as part of the big picture of modern technology rather than as deviant, pathological, harmful and addictive.
Researchers have identified a number of ways that the games hold the interest of and serve our children. The games:
- Are Fun!: This is why youngsters can spend so many hours playing
- Provide Challenge: Most games include some kind of challenge for the player
- Teach Mastery: Most games require increasing levels of mastery of coordination, strategy and cooperation
- Facilitate Cooperation-Communal Development: While most parents are concerned that their kids are isolated in front of the computer, in reality most games are interactional and may require high levels of collaboration, cooperation and coordination of dozens of players.
- Enhance Brain Function: Online gaming boosts memory and cognitive skills. Studies have shown that memory, puzzle, trivia and logic games can improve mental capacity in old age, effectively staving off dementia. The brain, like the body, needs exercise to stay healthy and elastic.
- Boost Self-Esteem: Each time gamers move up a level, complete a task, cooperate to defeat a common adversary, they gain a feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie.
- Provide Practice for Adult Life: Many games give children the opportunity to manage projects which require foresight, resource management and cooperation. Such games include practice at running a company or zoo, preparing a social dinner, or completing an archeological dig. Resources on Informative Websites for parents regarding different types of online games is coming up soon.
Online games, according to this view, prepare players to effectively and successfully function in the world they are going to live in. This model is quite different from most current educational institutions, which are run by digital immigrants and designed to prepare students for the old world, which will no longer exist by the time the students are adults. An ideal education meets students where they are and prepares them for the world to follow an education that ignores the digital age, which is increasingly upon us seems to ignore a big part of reality.
- Label your children (i.e., “You’re sick!”)
- Blame them (i.e., “You’re wasting your life!”)
- Prematurely threaten
- Prematurely demand that they change
- Compare them to other children
- Avoid blaming the following:
- Technology & Internet
- Game manufacturers
- Internet servers
- Friends and other children
- Friends’ parents
- Observe your children with open eyes & open heart
- Be genuinely curious about what draws them to the game
- What do they like and enjoy about games?
- What applications & technologies are being used?
- What actual games are played?
- How are these games played?
- How much time do they spend playing?
- When do they play?
- Where do they play?
- With whom do they play?
- How do the Internet and online games serve my child?
- Feeling of mastery, belonging, purpose, etc.
- Mastery, friendships, structure, community, challenges, competition, etc.
- Community, connection, excitement, etc.
- In the offline world (i.e., problems with school, family, friends, body image, relationships)
- In the emotional realm (i.e., depression, anxiety, low self-esteem)
- Spiritually (i.e., spiritual void)
- Developmental needs are age-sensitive
- Generally, young people explore who they are as they search for their identity
- Children’s developmental needs:
- Develop friendships – Connections
- Test limits of self, others, situations
- Challenge authority
- Safety, control, and autonomy
- Develop sexual identity
- Self-image is important – How am I being seen, perceived, liked, respected?
- Who am I?
- Who am I not?
- Who may I become?
- What are the limits?
- What is right and just?
- Show genuine curiosity and interest in their online lives
- Join them in their interest
- Do not demean their virtual life (it is as real to them as their ‘real’ life)
- Do not diminish the importance of the Internet & other advanced technology (this is the world they are growing up in)
- Do not ban the Internet (if at all possible)
- Propose offline activities that appeal to them in addition to (not instead of) online activities
- Ask them to show you what they like online
- Show respect for their interest
- Request that they show you how it ‘works’
- If you are inclined, play online with your teen – Let them teach you.
Note: This may be a humbling or even shaming experience . . . but it can also be fun!
- Know the game so you understand the time and inter-relationship parameters of the game
- Realize: It may take 2-3 hours to plan a raid and another 1-2 for the raid itself
- Many of the MMRPGs require planning and implementing for dozens of people for a few hours
- Don’t arbitrarily set time and day limits
- Children can plan dates and times of games in advance
- Watch or play with your children
- Do not use the game as bribery for ‘good behavior’
- Model and teach:
- Correcting imbalances
- Children 12+ need to learn self-moderation so they do not ‘explode’ when they leave the house
- How to help parents save face while learning about the game and other technology from their children
- How to help children respectfully introduce parents to games without humiliating the parent, and without fear of retaliation
- If parents choose not to play the game or not to have the children teach them they can:
- Locate strategy guides online
- Purchase books about the game
- Watch YouTube videos on games in general, strategies, levels and types of violence, language, and sexuality
- History, math
- Reading, writing
- Geography, biology, chemistry
- Nature, oceanography
- How to start and run a business
- How to invest money
- How to build and fix cars, bikes, motorcycles
- Mountaineering, scuba diving, surfing, skiing
- How to play soccer, basketball, hockey
- Robotic and artificial intelligence exploration
Assessment, Evaluation and Warning Signs of Internet Addiction
Warning Signs of Gaming Addiction
- Increased time spent in playing online
- Preoccupation that lasts beyond healthy, new excitement
- Lying or hiding gaming use from others
- Disobedience to time and other limits
- Diminished interest in offline recreational activities, such as sports, hikes, dance
- Diminished interest in essential offline self-care such as bathing, sleeping, eating. Social withdrawal from family and friends
- Withdrawal from school or work in favor of playing
- Cannot find pleasure in any activity besides online gaming
- Psychological withdrawal from the game when not playing
- Continuing to game despite its negative physical, emotional, occupational, or relational consequences
Sample of Online Assessment Tools:
- Beard and Wolf’s 2001 Criteria for Maladaptive Internet Use:
- HealthyPlace.com -Internet Addiction Test:
- ReSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program: Assessment/test available in 43 languages online at:
When Kids Are Abusing the Web and Gaming: Intervention and Treatment Options
Parents are frequently concerned about their children’s time online. As discussed in the above, the first steps are listening to and joining your child. Refrain from nagging, yelling or threatening. If your child is not simply a member of his or her technological generation, but has a real imbalance, action may be needed. The following sections are designed to help you take action in a conscious, relevant and most of all helpful way. We know it can be difficult, and we wish you the best!
Consult with experts – one or several. Seeing a few can be useful in making an informed decision. Then, perhaps with an expert’s help, develop a well-crafted, well-informed plan of action. This may include:
- Clear limits on Internet use
- Meet with a counselor or psychotherapist as an individual, family or both
- Consider a structured support system, such as an online gamers support group, 12-Step or Harm Reduction interventions
- Consider residential treatment or outward bound programs (can be very expensive)
Different Approaches to Treat Internet Addiction
Parents, educators, and other concerned adults should know that there are many ways to treat Internet Addiction and Gaming Addiction. Following is more information on some of the most common options:
- Behavioral Modification. This therapy modality focuses on changing behaviors as a way to change inner state (outside → in approach). Methods include modeling, conditioning, and structured activities separate from the addiction. In the case of treating Internet and Gaming addictions, this means social and recreation activities offline.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This therapy modality focuses on changing the thought patterns that lead to certain behaviors (inside → out approach). It is founded on the belief that it is what people believe about situations they face – not the situations themselves – that determines how they feel and behave. Thus, by changing the thought patterns one can change behavior and feelings.
- Family Therapy. Often, a child or teen acting out is responding to a family system that needs attention. Especially if the user already suffers from low self-esteem, sending them to individual therapy may reinforce the notion that they are “broken.” Treating the whole family can give an important opportunity to address unhealthy dynamics that may lead to addictive behavior.
- Harm Reduction Model. Rather than demonize Internet use, gaming, or technology in general, this approach seeks to reduce the harmful effects of addiction. Harm reduction strategies meet users “where they’re at.” In a drug context, this may include clean needles. In an Internet and gaming context, this may mean going to bed at 1am instead of 4am skipping a day of gaming and playing only six days a week joining a sports team one season a year.
- Online Support Groups. This may seem like taking an alcoholic to a bar, but it is also an appropriate place to treat Internet and gaming addiction. Internet addicts are online anyway, and they may as well spend some time talking about addiction and treatment with others. Community is important for healing, and the opportunity to access support 24/7 can mean a lot to a user trying to cut down.
- 12-Step (AA) Model. The 12-Step program is focused on abstinence and is based on the idea that addiction is a form of treatable spiritual sickness. The model includes working on a series of steps that include humility, personal inventory, amendments, spiritual seeking, and service. Like programs for food or sex addictions, Internet, gaming, and technology 12-Step programs are based on healthy balance rather than abstinence. Most groups meet in person, with literature and outside collaboration among members for additional support. Many argue that the abstinence model is not very applicable to the Internet as the Internet is here to stay and has increasing importance in people’s lives. The 12-Step model may be more relevant to online gaming than to Internet use.
- Self Help. For those who learn well on their own, there are numerous books on Internet and gaming addiction to help a user quit addictive programs or cut down across the board. This method circumvents the possible shame of admitting to others that one has a problem and may be particularly appealing for self-starters.
- Residential Treatment Centers. Treatment centers use a variety of modalities: Group therapy, Adventure-Nature therapy, Psycho-Education, Family therapy, Individual therapy, Pharmaceutical (Medication). Users participate in a wide array of activities in a group context, which often results in higher self-esteem due to face-to-face connection and triumph or progress over addiction.
- Outward Bound. These programs are based on the idea that experiential education is paramount to learning. They often include situations with real or perceived risk, to help bring participants into the moment and physical reality. Addicts of all stripes and colors tend to be far from the present moment and their bodies hence a treatment approach which necessitates their physical attention may be quite helpful and grounding.
In cases where therapy, 12-Step, and harm reduction are ineffective, a traditional treatment center or Outward Bound program may be appropriate. These centers take the user out of their familiar surroundings, in most cases away from access to technology. Residential treatment can be quite expensive and is generally used as a last resort for extreme cases. For instance, if your child has stopped going to school or work, refuses to eat, shower or leave their room, measures like this may be worth considering.
Parents are advised to do research on prospective treatment centers by interviewing staff, program graduates, and reading online reviews whenever possible. Putting one’s child in the care of a facility for addiction treatment should not be done lightly. A worst-case scenario is that the child becomes more damaged in treatment. So, do your research.
When performed skillfully and with care, residential treatment and Outward Bound centers can facilitate growth and build self esteem. They teach skills often lacking in gamers and Internet addicts, such as face-to-face cooperation and camaraderie, physical stamina and activity, and a connection to nature.
Remember: The Internet is here to stay. The best outcome for those who overuse, abuse or are addicted to the Internet or to gaming is to find balance between online and offline life. There is a spectrum of healthy use, and some may use the Internet only for necessities, while other healthy users are online for hours a day. The goal is not to avoid the Internet altogether – this is unrealistic and unhelpful. Balanced use or harm control are the best and most promising outcomes. In this regard, Internet Addiction is likely to be treated as food addiction rather than drug addiction.
We can find ways to enjoy the Internet and online gaming. Use them well, cope/deal with their dark sides, stop demonizing them, and most importantly, live with balance.
- High speed and low speed
- Acceleration and stillness
- Watching online trading and watching sunsets
- Reading blogs and emails and reading hardcover books, poetry, or sacred texts
- Engaging in virtual and face-to-face communication
- Surfing the Internet and surfing the Inner-net
Cyber-Wellness is a practical approach to people’s relationship with technology that emphasizes safety, awareness and respect in matters pertaining to the Internet. It addresses needs for physical, psychological, communal, emotional, spiritual, and vocational/occupational well-being and the importance of a balanced life while using Internet technologies. Cyber-Wellness philosophies and practices are best implemented with sensitivity and respect to generational, cultural and individual differences in background, attitudes, outlook and relationship to technology.
The Internet and online gaming are a part of the world we live in and that our children grow up in. Like a hammer, it can be used for help or for harm. We must find ways to bridge the digital divide between parents and children, as the disharmony between parents and children can be a bigger problem than Internet or gaming addictions. In this increasingly technological culture, children need our guidance, not our resistance, in navigating the world they inherit. Rather than demonize the digital age, we can show them the beauty of the natural world and help them use technology as the helpful tool that it can be. Of course, to teach something, one must be willing to learn about it. When children see their parents showing interest in their world, they will be more willing to hear input about it.
At the end of the day, our children will make their own choices about whether and how they use the Internet and gaming. The best we can do is set a good example, clear boundaries, and impress upon them values of balance between online and offline life. With help, we can make a cultural shift to help new generations view and use the Internet and gaming as tools for healthy and sustainable use.
Top of Page
Online Resources and References
- Entertainment Software Rating Board: Rating of Games
- PBS Documentary on “Digital Nation” and other resources technology, Web and online gaming:
- Larry Rosen, Ph.D. on Psychology of the Technology. Excellent free resources and books:
- John M. Grohol, Psy.D. offers a critical look at the idea of Internet Addiction
- Dr. John Suler, Ph.D.: The Psychology of Cyberspace:
- Ezine Articles: Online Games – Types Of Popular Games
- James Paul Gee, Ph.D.: Many aspects and types of online games
- More For Kids.Com: The Benefits of Online Gaming
- Science News for Kids: What Video Games Can Teach Us
- Books and Videos
- David Williamson Shaffer: How Computer Games Help Children Learn
- Mark Prensky: Don’t Bother Me Mom–I’m Learning!
- James Paul Gee: What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.
- Russel DeMaria: Reset: Changing the Way We Look at Video Games
* The terms “Digital natives” and “Digital immigrant”, by some accounts, seem to have been initiated by Dr. Christakis.
The present review is a first attempt to scope the literature from the lens of psychology and associated disciplines and present information on what has been theorized and discussed concerning the psychological characteristics of mukbang viewers and possible consequences of mukbang watching. One of the most important aspects of mukbang viewing was that individuals appeared to use mukbang to compensate for their unattained real-life social needs. Almost all existing theoretical studies argued that viewers obtained social gratifications from mukbang watching. This was mainly lonely individuals using mukbang to alleviate their social isolation by interacting with a virtual community of a shared interest and developing higher feelings of belongingness. This is in line with the existing literature regarding other online activities which suggest that individuals engage in online activities which facilitate social interaction (Stafford et al. 2004). For instance, individuals use social media sites to maintain their existing social relationships, meeting new individuals, and socializing (Horzum 2016).
Online gaming platforms provide the opportunity to create strong friendships and emotional relationships because players have the ability to express themselves in ways they might not feel comfortable doing in real life (Cole and Griffiths 2007). Online gambling has also been found to be affected by social facilitation whereby feeling others’ presence while gambling increased gamblers’ arousal (Cole et al. 2011). Furthermore, some studies emphasize the prominent role of mukbanger–viewer connection on mukbang watching. The interaction and emotional relationship established between the mukbanger and viewer appears to facilitate viewers to watch mukbang for social compensation. This is also in line with previous studies showing that emotional connection between the broadcaster and viewers make online videos electronic forms of intimacy that allows broadcasters to create richer social relationships with their audience (Liu et al. 2013 Rosen 2012).
Another aspect of mukbang watching was its alleged sexual uses. Mukbang watching was theorized to sexualize women’s bodies in a way that viewers were more focused on the mukbanger than the food being eaten (Donnar 2017 Schwegler-Castañer 2018). One of the very few cross-cultural studies regarding mukbang phenomenon found that physical attractiveness of the mukbanger was positively related to viewers’ attitude towards mukbang (Pereira et al. 2019). This relationship may indicate that mukbang has the potential to be a sexual activity for some viewers because sexual arousal is moderately correlated with the watched person’s physical attractiveness among both men and women (Sigre-Leirós et al. 2016). Although, existing studies mostly mentioned sexualization of female bodies, male mukbangers could also have been watched for sexual gratification. Extant literature supports the notion that both men and women engage in unusual sexual fantasies (Joyal et al. 2015). In fact, some individuals may combine sexual and eating gratifications and form a unique type of fantasy (i.e., feederism). In one study, men and women from general population who were shown neutral and feeding still images while listening to audio recordings of neutral and feeding stories subjectively rated feeding stimuli as more sexually arousing than neutral stimuli (Terry et al. 2012).
Additionally, a minority of both men and women from homosexual and heterosexual communities have reported gaining weight for sexual pleasure of their partners (Prohaska 2013). Those who gain sexual arousal from making their partners obese (i.e. ‘feeders’) may compensate this particular need via fantasizing about feeding someone to a state of morbid obesity that would result in immobility (Prohaska 2014). From this point of view, mukbang could also facilitate sexual compensation for feeders (i.e., person who feeds the feedee for sexual arousal) through presenting excessive eating on camera. In fact, feeders could go as far as viewing live mukbang shows where they can instruct mukbangers what and how much to eat, simulating the act of feeding someone via mukbang. Nevertheless, given that men and women equally fantasize about fetishes (Yule et al. 2017), watching others eat may serve as a sexual fetish for some individuals.
Another aspect of mukbang watching was its entertainment uses. The reviewed papers and articles emphasized that the sounds produced during mukbang may provide an autonomous sensory meridian response experience for some of the viewers that may lead to happiness and relief and have entertainment value (Choe 2019 Pettit 2019 Woo 2018). In this scenario, viewers become more interested in the sounds produced by the act of eating than the consumption itself (Schwegler-Castañer 2018). This observation that mukbang is being watched for entertainment purposes concurs with the studies from other online activity use literature. For instance, individuals engaged in social media use for entertainment purposes (Horzum 2016). Similarly, the online gaming literature has identified recreation as one of the motives that drives individuals to engage gaming (Demetrovics et al. 2011). Some youngsters consider pornography watching as entertaining and watch pornography for entertainment in order to cope with their boredom (Rothman et al. 2015). Mukbang also harbours entertaining elements with different mukbangers who demonstrate a variety of different behaviours. For instance, some mukbangers can entertain in their videos by giving themselves food challenges (e.g., finishing a specific amount of food in a very short period of time), while others may entertain their viewers by engaging in bizarre and unpredictable behaviours, showing odd and extreme eating styles (Hong and Park 2018).
Another aspect of mukbang watching was its use as an escape from reality. The extant literature has theorized that individuals with a desire to escape and watch mukbang videos include those who (i) were hospital patients, (ii) have fast-paced and hyper competitive ways of life, (iii) have a sense of guilt and stress about being fat, and/or (iv) are bored (Bruno and Chung 2017 Hakimey and Yazdanifard 2015). This is in line with the notion that one of the fundamental functions of online activities is their uses as an escape from reality to deal with unpleasant situations (Bessiere et al. 2008). For instance, adults spend excessive time on online gaming to escape from negative emotions such as nervousness, sadness, and anger (Kim et al. 2017a, b). College students have used social media sites (e.g., Facebook) to get away from real-world worries and problems (Kwon et al. 2013). Escape serves as the central reason for gambling even though it does not solve gamblers’ long-term problems (Wood and Griffiths 2007). Mukbang watching can also provide viewers the sought after escape mechanism from real world with its different social, sexual, and entertainment features, especially those videos where the mukbanger talks and interacts about their daily life, and which might detract viewers from their own real-life problems and unpleasant reality (Hong and Park 2018).
Another important aspect of mukbang watching is its use as a form of vicarious eating. Both academic papers and newspaper articles have theorized that some viewers who are on diets, who love food, and who want to obtain satisfaction from watching the consumption of a wide range of different food watch mukbang videos (Bruno and Chung 2017 Donnar 2017 Hakimey and Yazdanifard 2015). Watching mukbang appears to help such individuals satisfy food cravings, experience the feeling of binge eating themselves, and have a vicarious satiation via visual and audio stimulation (Choe 2019 Gillespie 2019). This is in line with the extant literature. For instance, viewers have been reported to achieve vicarious satisfaction from viewing fetish-themed pornography movies (Brennan 2017). Vicarious viewing serves as a compensation of acts that an individual would never perform in real life and/or as a fulfilment of known experiences regarding the watched act via triggering a memory (Brennan 2017). Similarly, gaming has also been reported to be preferred as a leisure activity because it provides vicarious satisfaction of making the impossible appear possible (Lee et al. 2016). Moreover, feeling vicarious satisfaction is an important motive in watching reality television programmes (Kim et al. 2017a). Consequently, the review of the existing literature suggests that mukbang watching is another online activity that could be used to fulfil virtual satisfaction and compensation.
Several studies have theorized that mukbang watching might have negative consequences for the viewers including (i) increased consumption of food because of social comparison or mimicry (ii) alteration of viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness, eating, health, table manners, and eating manners because of modelling of bad behaviours and (iii) obesity and different eating disorders because of glorifying binge eating (Bruno and Chung 2017 Donnar 2017 Hong and Park 2018 Park 2018 Shipman 2019 Spence et al. 2019). On the other hand, mukbang watching might promote positive effects for viewers including alleviation of social isolation via creating a sense of belongingness to a community, subjective closeness for those who seek companionship and a dinner partner, and fulfilment of physical and sentimental hunger for those who are on a diet and/or live in single-person households (Donnar 2017 Hong and Park 2018).
These theoretical assumptions on potential consequences of mukbang found in the present review concur with the existing studies that have investigated consequences of other online activities. For instance, in a systematic review of the effects of online gaming, game players were reported to experience enjoyment, feeling of achievement, friendship, and a sense of community as a result of gaming (Sublette and Mullan 2012). Gambling has been positively related to undesired interpersonal, psychosocial, and financial consequences among adolescents (Ricijas et al. 2016). Some of the negative consequences of internet pornography consumption were diminishing sexual interest towards potential real-life partners, having an abnormal sexual response, decreased social integration, and elevated conduct problems (Owens et al. 2012 Pizzol et al. 2016 Rothman et al. 2015).
Even though several studies have addressed a range of positive and negative consequences of mukbang watching, there was only one newspaper article that argued that mukbang watching could turn into a problematic (i.e. addictive) behaviour for some of its users due to its social facilitation features. Indeed, obtaining social gratifications and compensating unattained offline social needs using a specific online activity could promote addictive use of that activity (Kardefelt-Winther 2014). For instance, meeting new individuals and socializing via social media sites has been positively associated with problematic social media use (Kircaburun et al. 2018). Those who formed virtual friendships and relationships in gaming platforms have higher rates of online gaming addiction than those who did not (Kuss and Griffiths 2012b). Similarly, both forming intimate connections with mukbangers and constructing social relationships with other mukbang viewers might promote repeated use of mukbang videos for social gratifications and, in turn, lead to problematic mukbang watching.
Although the reviewed publications did not directly discuss or theorize about addictive mukbang watching, in addition to social uses of mukbang, there are several gratifications obtained from mukbang watching (e.g., sexual, entertainment, escapist, and vicarious eating) that could turn normal mukbang watching into problematic mukbang watching. For instance, those individuals who perceive mukbang as a sexual fantasy could become problematic mukbang viewers because fantasizing motives are strong predictors of addictive use of online sexual activities (Wéry and Billieux 2016). Using social media for entertainment has been positively associated with problematic social media use (Kircaburun et al. 2018), which may indicate that those who can entertain themselves via watching mukbang could become problematic mukbang viewers. Escape is one of the key motivations that can turn some non-problematic activities such as gambling, gaming, and pornography use into problematic behaviours in attempts to create positive mood modification (Király et al. 2015 Kor et al. 2014 Wood and Griffiths 2007), indicating that those who successfully escape their unpleasant reality via watching mukbang could become problematic mukbang viewers. Finally, those who frequently diet and have different eating disorders may also become excessive mukbang watchers in an attempt to compensate actual eating via having the satisfaction of vicarious pleasure of eating by watching others binge eat.
Limitations and Conclusions
Thorough and transparent mapping methods of evidence found in a specific area are key strengths of scoping studies. The technical challenges involving time and the dynamic nature of the research area being investigated should be taken into account (Davis et al. 2009). From this point of view, the first limitation of the present scoping study was that some of the data were collected from newspaper articles. This limitation raises concerns regarding the quality of data collected. Second, some of the studies identified and reviewed in the present study were purely theoretical and not based on anything empirical. This reliance on theoretical arguments makes some of the discussions in the review somewhat speculative.
Nevertheless, the present scoping study is the first to review the extant literature theoretically discussing or empirically examining the psychological characteristics of mukbang viewers and consequences of mukbang watching from a psychological (and related disciplines) perspective. Even though individuals have been watching mukbang for over a decade, very little is known about this behaviour. Consequently, the present review contributes to very scarce literature and appears to indicate that mukbang viewers are those who seek social, sexual, entertainment, escapist, and/or eating compensations. Furthermore, mukbang watching may promote both positive consequences (e.g., alleviation of loneliness and social isolation) and negative consequences (e.g., disordered eating and problematic mukbang watching). Future studies should empirically examine the theoretical assumptions posited in the present review. Increasing the knowledge of this phenomenon may be important in minimizing its negative consequences. Based on the present review’s findings, problematic use of mukbang watching might facilitate symptoms of problematic sexual behaviours, internet addiction, and eating disorders. From this perspective, successful treatment strategies used to reduce these problems may also be used to cope with problematic mukbang watching. For instance, one study using a positive psychology intervention reported a decrease on the internet addiction rate of 71% in an experiment group compared to control group (Khazaei et al. 2017). Furthermore, specific forms of cognitive–behavioural therapy have been effective for several eating disorder presentations both in the short-term and long-term (Brownley et al. 2016). Similarly, group cognitive–behavioural therapy that has been successfully used to reduce compulsive sexual behaviours (Sadiza et al. 2011) could perhaps also be used for problematic mukbang watching.
The Psychology of Video Games: Are Video Games Good or Bad For Players?
Video games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. Although billions of people seem to be having fun playing them, the question still looms: could they also be bad for us? Many things have been said about the impact of video games on players in the past few decades, more specifically about their potential negative effects, while their potential positive effects have often been ignored. Video games have been accused of making players violent, isolated, dumb, or addicted. Just like rock’n’roll and comic books before them, video games worry parents and policymakers. But does academic research confirm these worries?
I grew up playing video games with my parents, friends, and other family members, so I wasn’t confronted with this suspicion towards video games until after I got my PhD in psychology (I’m specialized in cognitive psychology, the study of how humans process information and acquire knowledge). Despite my interest in both cognitive science and games, I never academically studied video games myself. My subjective opinion of video games was (and still is) that they’ve allowed me to explore new worlds, solve puzzles, learn to persevere, and to simply have fun. Objectively, it’s important to take a step back and scrutinize games in a scientific way. But before I get to the research on video games, it’s important for me to explain my professional relationship with them.
After I graduated in 2004, I left academia and started a career in the private sector, participating in the development of so-called educational toys and games. At this time I came to realize how some parents were quite worried about video games, which prompted me to delve into the research on games. I then started writing articles and giving talks about what were the benefits of playing video games and what were the potential concerns about them, according to academic research. My conclusion back then was that video games, like any games, had cognitive and social benefits, depending on the type of game, and that overall the worries about videogame play were exaggerated. Thus, as long as children played games that were age-appropriate, that video games did not dominate their fun activities, and that they had a good night sleep, there was no particular reason for concern.
Fast forward to 2021. For the past 13 years, I’ve been working in the videogame industry. I started at Ubisoft HQ (France), working on their Games for Everyone line and teaching game developers how humans learn and what it means for educational games, and more broadly for any game (especially regarding its learning curve, such as game tutorials). I later moved to Ubisoft Montreal, where I worked at their playtest lab, and my focus shifted from educational games to commercial games for adults, such as the Rainbow Six franchise. In 2012, I joined LucasArts to work on Star Wars games (e.g. Star Wars: 1313) and when the studio was shut down in 2013, I moved to Epic Games and became director of user experience (UX) there.
The term “UX” refers to the consideration of the end user (a human) when we design something. It’s a mindset, a philosophy, focusing on improving the production cycles and the design process to offer the best experience possible to the users of a product, system, or service, while minding their best interests. This mindset is relatively new in the game industry, although it blossomed and expanded after the Second World War in many other industries (from industrial design to web design in the 1990s).
Cognitive science is the foundation of UX practice, which is why my background is relevant in this field. Experiencing an object, an environment, a service, a website, or a video game happens in our minds. So if creators and developers want to offer the best experience possible to their customers or users, they need to understand what’s going on in the mind of a human as they are interacting with the product. For example, if we see a door with a handle on it, we are likely to believe that we need to grab the handle and pull this door. If the door actually needs to be pushed, it’s frustrating, because it’s not working the way we anticipated. This is called a “UX fail.” UX practitioners do their best to anticipate humans’ expectations and needs, so that they can more intuitively use objects or systems (such as putting a plate on the side of the door where it needs to be pushed), and hopefully even enjoy their interaction with them. Despite its impressive performances, the human brain has great flaws. Having a UX approach is therefore important if we are to offer the best experience possible to humans. UX practitioners do so by having some basic knowledge of how our mental processes work (such as perception, attention, or memory) and by having a “design thinking” process, whereby they start with a prototype that is then tested by users to verify whether it’s meeting their needs and expectations before moving forward in the production development process.
This is what I’ve been doing in the past decade or so in the video game industry: striving for video games to offer a usable and fun experience to players, all players (inclusion and accessibility are key concerns of UX practitioners), as I did on the game Fortnite (more specifically on the “Save the World” mode). In October 2017 I became a freelance consultant and started to publish about UX, video game design, and psychology. Not long afterwards, with the increased popularity of Fortnite among teenagers (in particular its free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode), and the overall booming popularity of video games in the world, concerns around this interactive art form and entertainment seemed to renew. This is why I wrote the book The Psychology of Video Games: to explain to a broad audience how games are made, how psychology is used to improve them (i.e. the UX mindset), and to digest the current research on the potential impact of video games on players in a nuanced yet concise and approachable way.
So, back to my original question: does science confirm that we need to be worried? Or could video games actually be good for us?
What are the potential positive impacts of playing video games?
Let start by what was sadly relatively much less studied about games: whether they can be beneficial to players. Beyond the fact that play, defined as an “activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery” is overall good for cognitive and social development, video games have been found to have several notable benefits. In particular, certain commercial action games have been found to enhance visual attention skills. Other games, such as Tetris, have been shown to improve spatial ability such as mental rotation time. Research on the cognitive benefits of videogame play is still emerging but there is some evidence that certain games can have positive effects on visual and cognitive skills. Other games have been explored for their potential to foster prosocial behavior.
Video games are also explored for their potential to engage players for educational purposes. The most notable impact here is admittedly made by teachers and educators who are using certain existing games for education in class (such as Minecraft or SimCity). Nonetheless, some scholars argue that video games can develop a “growth mindset” (Dweck, 2006). It refers to the idea that intelligence is incremental, thus hard work and perseverance are what matter. The hypothesis here is that video games could encourage perseverance, which is generally recognized as being important in learning.
One last main area of exploration is whether video games can have a positive impact on health and well-being. While some games are explicitly designed to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, playing commercial games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons have also been recently found to be positively associated with affective well-being.
Overall, contrary to the popular belief that video games might have negative effects on health and well-being, the research is currently showing that in many cases video game play yields benefits, although they haven’t been found as extraordinary as some video game enthusiasts might believe.
What are the potential negative impacts of playing video games?
One of the oldest concerns regarding video games that was explored is whether they can cause aggressive behavior in real life. Decades of research studying this area have so far mostly yielded heavy debates, yet no consensus on the matter. Nonetheless, there is currently no clear evidence allowing to attribute real-life violence, such as mass shootings, to video games, as the American Psychological Association (APA) pointed out in a 2020 resolution: “Attributing violence to violent video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors.” Moreover, their potential association with mild aggressive behavior is also highly debated among scholars and within the medical community.
The next concern was whether video games could negatively affect school performance (e.g. lack of attention at school). Here again, the results are highly debated among scholars. Some researchers found an association with videogame play and poorer grades, but others did not. And it’s important to note here that when such association is found, it doesn’t say anything about a causal relationship. Correlation is not causation. It could very well be that children that have poor performance at school are likely to play video games instead of doing their homework if they don’t feel competent at school. That being said, it’s obvious that if a child (or an adult) spends too much time playing games to the point that other activities are neglected (such as sleeping, doing school work, having a social life, etc.), it’s never good. Doing a variety of activities (including physical activity) and sleeping are very important for the brain, and even more so for brains in development. Which leads us to the last major concern about video games, becoming even more important today: can video games be “addictive”?
An increasing number of parents are worried about their children being “addicted” to certain video games. Addiction is a delicate and complex topic. It’s a pathology. While there isn’t any straightforward definition of what an addiction is, it’s generally considered as the encounter between a person, a context, and an object (product) that is causing significant distress to the person who feels a compulsion to consume the product despite harmful consequences. The object is usually a substance, such as heroin, alcohol, or tobacco, but sometimes it can be a behavior, such as gambling. Gambling disorder is currently the only behavioral addiction that is recognized by the DSM-5 (the manual used to diagnose mental disorders). But what about the other addictions that people talk about, such as sports addiction, shopping addiction, or video game addiction? It is true that some people in a certain context can develop a pathological relationship with a pleasurable habit, such as playing video games (its prevalence varies between studies, for example between 0.1% to 1% in one study, or 3.1% in another). In this sense, some people do have a pathological relationship with video games, and they need help. Nobody is disputing this fact. However, when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in 2017 the introduction of a “gaming disorder” in the next International Classification of Disease, it has stirred a lot of debate and controversy among scholars who disagree with the creation of a new disorder related to playing video games. The media psychology divisions of the APA and Psychological Society of Ireland jointly released a statement disagreeing with the WHO diagnosis, pointing out that “the current research base is not sufficient for this disorder and that this disorder may be more a product of moral panic than good science”. On a side note, the same controversy applies to social media and the moral panic associated with it. In the video below, Dr Rachel Kowert, research director at Take This org, summarizes the state of the research on “gaming disorder.”
To clarify, scholars who disagree with the creation of a new “gaming disorder” claim that when a pathological relationship between a player and a video game emerges, it should be best viewed as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety (the specific context in which the player is currently evolving), or as a way to satisfy basic psychological need of competence, autonomy and relatedness when these are not felt in real life by players. Lastly, scholars are also debating the proposed “gaming disorder” diagnosis criteria, because being engaged with a game and playing long hours is not enough for someone to be considered a pathological gamer. Clearly distinguishing between passionate gaming and pathological gaming is critical to avoid stigmas, and to avoid downplaying true addiction suffering.
Overall, the worries around video games seem greatly exaggerated. Video games, as a medium, are neither good or bad by themselves. It greatly depends on what game we are talking about, how it is consumed by the player, and why. Moreover, social relationships are very important to teenagers and in today’s world video games are where a lot of social connections happen, especially during a pandemic. But does that mean that video game developers should be washing their hands on any responsibility towards their players? I do not believe so.
Pushing for better ethics in the video game industry
Video games are not designed to be “addictive.” Like we saw earlier, an addiction is a pathology that does not depend uniquely on an object it also depends on the individual and their current life (context). And video games are not a substance that can disturb the brain chemistry balance and lead to a physical dependence, like nicotine, alcohol, or heroin can do. But that does not mean that some video games should not be under ethical scrutiny. In fact, certain designs and monetization practices are used to exploit human brain limitations and biases in order to maximise revenue or play time, at the expense of players’ best interest.
Creating a video game, just like creating a movie, can be extremely expensive. Moreover, players are expecting most games to be free to play today, which means that studios need to be creative in order to make revenue. Any monetization system will create friction for the user. After all, spending money is generally not perceived as being a good experience. Games that have an amazing advertisement campaign influencing enthusiastic gamers to pay for the chance of accessing the game, only to find themselves disappointed because the game is nowhere near the amazing experience promised, are deceiving. With free-to-play games, the advantage is that players can try the game for free. They do not need to take the studio for their word and buy a game on faith that the advertised experience is the one they will have. But this is creating new types of friction points for players, and new potential for “dark patterns.”
A dark pattern is a design that is purposely deceiving, with the ultimate goal to benefit the company at the expense of users. In this sense, false advertising is a dark pattern. But with free-to-play games (and apps), new dark patterns have emerged. For example, they can take the form of some sort of pressure put on players to engage with the game a certain amount of time or on a certain day, otherwise they will miss out or lose something. This is called FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be used as a dark pattern to influence players to play every day, otherwise they might lose a reward that they care about (this technique, along with others, are often considered as being part of the “attention economy”). These mechanics have not been invented by the videogame industry and are certainly not only used by this industry. Retail has been using FOMO for decades, such as when telling customers that they might miss on amazing savings if they do not buy on a specific day (e.g. on Black Friday).
They are many other examples of dark patterns or grey areas used today by the game industry. It’s important for UX practitioners to learn to detect them and raise awareness, because using dark patterns is fundamentally going against the UX mindset it’s when business goals take priority over the user’s best interests. But it’s first of all the responsibility of stakeholders to define company values. In an effort to draft what a code of ethics could look like in the game industry, some colleagues and myself have started the ethicalgames.org initiative. This effort is going to take a lot of work, but the hope is that it will help game developers understand better what is at stake, and gamers and parents to be better informed to demand accountability.
Playing video games by itself does not constitute a particular worry to parents or policymakers. However, the videogame industry, just like any industry, should be under strict scrutiny regarding certain practices that can cross ethical lines, especially when minors can be affected. But to identify these lines, it’s important to have a nuanced and evidence-based approach to video games and their impact on players. The issue is that sometimes video games (and their makers) are accused of being purposely designed for addiction, just because they are fun and popular. Surely, this is not enough to question the ethics of a game, otherwise why not question the ethics of a popular TV show, arguably designed to keep its audience on the edge of their couch and eager to watch the next episode? Just like movies, games are supposed to be engaging. That’s their whole point. They’re also supposed to manipulate people’s emotions, just like music, movies, books, or paintings do. Evaluating the ethics of video games is not an easy task, and lines are blurry.
The Bottom Line
Over 2.8 billion people have fun playing video games and the large majority of game creators are passionate about their work. Video games are an art form. They are a rich medium that offers a very diverse pool of experiences, some of which you play alone, others collaboratively, and others in competition with many other people. While the current moral panic around video games is greatly exaggerated, it’s important to point out the flaws of the game industry and to push for better ethical practices overall. The benefits of games are also overall exaggerated, yet certain games do have added value in health and education. An increase of funding to explore the positive impact of games could greatly help increase our understanding of them. But above all else, video games are just supposed to be fun.
To go further: The Psychology of Video Games, Celia Hodent (2020), Routledge (also available on Kindle).
The Signs and Effects of Video Game Addiction
Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.
Carol Yepes / Moment / Getty Images
Video game addiction is compulsive or uncontrolled use of video games, in a way that causes problems in other areas of the person's life. Often considered a form of computer addiction or internet addiction, video game addiction has been an increasing concern for parents as video games have become more commonplace and are often targeted at children.
Why do we enjoy reality TV? Researchers say it’s more about empathy than humiliation
By guest blogger Tomasz Witkowski
Television programs portraying ordinary people in unexpected situations are almost as old as the medium of television itself. First aired in 1984, Candid Camera is often seen as a prototype of the reality show. Its premise was simple – unsuspecting people were confronted with unusual, funny situations and filmed with hidden cameras. However, the genre exploded as a phenomenon in the late 1990s and 2000s with the global success of such series as Survivor, Idol, and Big Brother, and to this day many people continue to abandon their own activities for the voyeuristic other.
Reality shows have not only amassed incredible popularity but have also become an object of severe, wide-ranging criticism. Among the most serious complaints is the allegation that the shows rely on viewers’ enjoyment of the humiliation and degradation of participants. It is quite difficult to find an individual who is indifferent to such programmes. We either hate reality shows or we watch them, quite often without considering why.
Up until now, scholarly opinion on the subject has been divided. Some maintain that the shows’ appeal constitutes an extension of fictional drama, and is thus driven by positive feelings like empathy and compassion. Others claim that reality TV viewers are driven by a voyeuristic desire to intrude on others and to see them in their most private and embarrassing moments. Michal Hershman Shitrit and Jonathan Cohen from University of Haifa in Israel recently tested these contrasting perspectives for a study in the Journal of Media Psychology.
They surveyed 183 participants about 12 different reality shows including local versions of well-known productions such as Big Brother, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Master Chef, and Super Nanny. Participants stated how often they watched each show, how much they enjoyed the shows, the extent to which they would want to participate if offered a chance, how happy they would be if a family member was interested in participating, etc. Among the most important questions were ones involving self-disclosure (items asked to what extent one would reveal to a stranger various types of information, such as “Your personal habits” or “Things you have done and feel guilty about.”), as the researchers hypothesized that self-disclosure would be positively correlated with one’s own willingness to participate in reality shows.
The idea behind the questions about loved ones participating was to measure attitudes towards participation at a slight distance, independent from the respondents’ own personality traits and willingness to participate. Shitrit and Cohen assumed that if people do not wish to be humiliated or see their loved ones publicly humiliated, and at the same time they enjoy reality shows for the humiliation involved, one would expect a negative correlation between enjoyment and willingness to participate. If, on the other hand, empathy is the main reason why people enjoy these shows, the correlation should be positive.
Overall, interest in participating in reality shows was not very high, but crucially, the more that participants said they enjoyed the shows, the more likely they were to say that they’d like to participate, or for a loved one to participate. Unsurprisingly, participants who scored highly in the self-disclosure measure also tended to be more interested in participating in reality shows. On the whole, approval for family members’ participation in reality shows was higher than the desire for self-participation.
Shitrit and Cohen concluded that this tricky and innovative test of the real reasons behind enjoyment of reality shows allowed them to discover that humiliation is not the central motivation, which must rather be empathy.
Are these findings good news for all those who enjoy reality shows and for those who would like to perceive human creatures as good and positive? I would not be so eager to shout the good news to the whole world. Humans are quite complex creatures. Not only do we love others, but quite often we do not like some of them, and at times even hate them. I wonder what results would be generated by a study in which we asked participants not about their loved ones, but rather those they despised? Isn’t it true that we are overly optimistic not only about ourselves but also about our loved ones, and we can’t imagine that we or they would find themselves in embarrassing situations? Conversely, isn’t it the case that we would like to see our enemies embarrass themselves, and we can easily imagine this occurring? In which case, surely it’s possible that we enjoy reality shows in part because of feeling empathy and sympathy when watching participants we like, while at the same time finding enjoyment in seeing those we do not like in their most humiliating and embarrassing moments?
I think that before we trumpet to the whole world the researchers’ “good news” interpretation of their study, it would be desirable to get answers to these questions first.
Main image shows the chair from Big Brother 14 in the UK, via Diamond Geezer/Flickr
Post written by Dr Tomasz Witkowski for the BPS Research Digest. Tomasz is a psychologist and science writer who specializes in debunking pseudoscience in the field of psychology, psychotherapy and diagnosis. He has published over a dozen books, dozens of scientific papers and over 100 popular articles (some of them in Skeptical Inquirer). In 2016 his latest book Psychology Led Astray: Cargo Cult in Science and Therapy was published by BrownWalker Press. He blogs at https://forbiddenpsychology.wordpress.com/.
WHO Recognizes Gaming Disorder As A Mental Health Condition
WHO Recognizes Gaming Disorder As A Mental Health Condition
And although WHO's voice is powerful, it's not the last word in the world of science.
"There is a fairly even split in the scientific community about whether 'tech addiction' is a real thing," says Dr. Michael Bishop, who runs Summerland, which he calls "a summer camp for screen overuse" for teens.
"Technology addiction" doesn't appear in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-V, published in 2013. That's the bible of the psychiatric profession in the United States. The closest it comes is something called "Internet Gaming Disorder," and that is listed as a condition for further study, not an official diagnosis.
This omission is important not only because it shapes therapists' and doctors' understanding of their patients but because without an official DSM code, it is harder to bill insurers for treatment of a specific issue.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is the author of the 2016 book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids. There are brain-imaging studies of the effects of screen time, he says. And he also has treated many teens who are so wrapped up in video games that they don't even get up to use the bathroom.
He says the evidence is clear, but we're not ready to face it.
"We have, as a society, gone all-in on tech," he says. "So we don't want some buzz-killing truth sayers telling us that the emperor has no clothes and that the devices that we've all so fallen in love with can be a problem" — especially for kids and their developing brains, he adds.
Addiction may not be an official term in the U.S., at least not yet. But researchers and clinicians like Bishop, who avoid using it, are still concerned about some of the patterns of behavior they see.
"I came to this issue out of a place of deep skepticism: addicted to video games? That can't be right," said Dr. Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University, who has been researching the effects of media on children for decades.
But "I've been forced by data to accept that it's a problem," he told me when I interviewed him for my book The Art of Screen Time. "Addiction to video games and Internet use, defined as 'serious dysfunction in multiple aspects of your life that achieves clinical significance,' does seem to exist."
Measuring problematic use
Gentile's definition doesn't address the questions of whether media can cause changes in your brain or create a true physical dependency.
It also doesn't address the question, raised by some of the clinicians I've spoken with, of whether media overuse is best thought of as a symptom of something else, such as depression, anxiety or ADHD. Gentile's definition simply asks whether someone's relationship to media is causing problems to the extent that the person would benefit from getting some help.
Gentile was one of the co-authors of a study published in November that tried to shed more light on that question. The study has the subtitle "A Parent Report Measure of Screen Media 'Addiction' in Children." Note that the term addiction is in quotes here. In the study, researchers asked parents of school-age children to complete a questionnaire based on the criteria for "Internet Gaming Disorder."
Shots - Health News
Video Games May Affect The Brain Differently, Depending On What You Play
For example, it asked: Is their preferred media activity the only thing that puts them in a good mood? Are they angry or otherwise unhappy when forced to unplug? Is their use increasing over time? Do they sneak around to use screens? Does it interfere with family activities, friendships or school?
The experts I've talked to say the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most, this study suggests, is your relationship to it, and that requires looking at the full context of life.
Sarah Domoff, the lead author on that study, runs the Problematic Media Assessment and Treatment clinic at the Center for Children, Families, and Communities at Central Michigan University. She works with young people directly, and also trains pediatricians to spot problems with screens and to offer help to families. She says that problems with video games often are found in children who also have a diagnosis such as ADHD or autism spectrum, while young people who have problems with social media are more likely to have a diagnosis such as depression or anxiety.
Rather than go "cold turkey" on technology, she focuses on helping families with "harm reduction" such as keeping devices out of the bedroom and making sure that young people go to school, spend time with friends and play outdoors. Addiction, she says, may be "in the single digits" --that is, less than 10 percent of all those who use media--but we need more research to know for sure.
Though tech addiction isn't officially recognized yet in the United States, there are in-patient treatment facilities for teens that try to address the problem.
For my book, I interviewed a teenage boy who attended a wilderness therapy program in Utah called Outback.
"I started playing [video games] when I was around 9 years old," said Griffin, whose last name I didn't use to protect his privacy. He chose email over a phone interview. "I played because I found it fun, but after a while I played mostly because I preferred it over socializing and confronting my problems."
After he spent weeks hiking through the wilderness, his mother saw a lot of improvement in his demeanor and focus. However, Griffin came home to a reality where he still needed a laptop for high school and still used a smartphone to connect with friends.
Bishop, who runs therapeutic Summerland camps in California and North Carolina, says the teens who come to him fall into two broad categories. There are the ones, overwhelmingly boys, who spend so much time playing video games that, in his words, they "fall behind in their social skills." Often they are battling depression or anxiety, or they may be on the autism spectrum.
Then there is a group of mostly girls who misuse and overuse social media. They may be obsessed with taking selfies — Bishop calls them "selfists" — or they may have sent inappropriate pictures of themselves or bullied others online.
What You Need To Know About Kids' Screen Time Right Now
Regardless of the problem, "We feel the issue is best conceptualized as a 'habit' over an 'addiction,' " Bishop says. "When teens think about their behavior as a habit, they are more empowered to change."
Labeling someone an addict, essentially saying he or she has a chronic disease, is a powerful move. And it may be especially dangerous for teens, who are in the process of forming their identities, says Maia Szalavitz.
Szalavitz is an addiction expert and the author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way Of Understanding Addiction. Based on her experience with drug and alcohol addiction, she thinks grouping kids together who have problems with screens can be counterproductive. Young people with milder problems may learn from their more "deviant peers," she says. For that reason, she would encourage families to start with individual or family counseling.
Different habits demand different approaches to treatment. People who have problematic relationships with alcohol, drugs or gambling can choose abstinence, though it's far from easy. Those who are binge eaters, however, cannot. They must rebuild their relationships with food while continuing to eat every day.
In today's world, technology may be more like food than it is like alcohol. Video games or social media may be avoidable, but most students need to use computers for school assignments, build tech skills for the workplace, and learn to combat distraction and procrastination as part of growing up.
The word "addiction" may currently be attracting controversy, but you don't need a doctor's official pronouncement to work on putting the devices down more often — or to encourage your kids to do so as well.
- David Williamson Shaffer: How Computer Games Help Children Learn