As I walk the busy streets of China, videogame arcades and computer cafes are filled with students, day and night.
Students at schools and libraries are busy working on coursework. They are mostly girls.
Arcades and computer cafes provide a mix of e-mailing and games, and are predominantly boys.
According to the newspaper China Daily, China has about 20 million teenagers using the internet. And over 2 million, mostly males between 15 and 20, have become addicted. Chinese parents worry about their child abandoning study...obsessed with electronic games. Similar to our “fat camps” where heavy children lose weight, China has summer camps where parents send their child to overcome videogame addiction.
China is trying to require definite user identification, and limits school children to three hours per day on the internet. But in marketplace China, it is hard to stop internet cafes from looking the other way, or keep a student from internet hopping.
Videogame addiction has been researched in Switzerland and Spain and Taiwan.
But only now has a researcher conducted a broad survey of U.S. kids.
“Pathological Video-Game Use Among Youth Ages 8 to 18" by Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile was published this April in the journal Psychological Science.
Gentile surveyed over a thousand youngsters in age clusters from 8 to 18 across the United States.
Videogame addiction is not yet defined in the Diagnostic Manual used by clinicians.
So to define "pathological behavior" Gentile used criteria similar to those established for gambling. Both begin as entertainment, relaxation, and escape from daily concerns.
But for some individuals, it grows into a behavior with negative consequences: dominates a person’s life, provides a "high," requires more and more stimulation to achieve the "high," causes withdrawal if deprived, causes conflict with other people or school or work, and relapses whenever you try to quit.
A person was considered pathological if they reported at least six of eleven symptoms, just like gambling addiction. About 12 percent of American boys and 3 percent of girls are pathological gamers.
The average amount of time our middle and high school students spend playing videogames is now over 13 hours per week.
Boys played much more girls.
Girls were also more likely to see videogame use as a problem and try to reduce it.
About one-fourth of the students, primarily boys, played to "escape" and they skipped homework to do so. About one-fifth of all students said they did poorly on tests and homework because of playing.
Although Gentile did not address it, his research adds to the evidence that videogaming may be the major factor in the decrease in boys pursuing academics. Girls now dominate colleges worldwide.
Only half of U.S. students surveyed reported having parental rules that tried to limit either the content...or the time spent on videogames. Many (mostly boys) have access to "mature-rated" violent games and most American parents were fully aware of this.
Comparing Gentile's data with China, it appears that parents in the U.S. are less concerned with internet addiction.
China’s parents are trying to stop internet addiction, and failing.