The World Health Organization Now Recognizes Gaming Addiction As A Real Illness, But Not Everyone Agrees

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In this technological age, it can be tough to try & figure out where the precise boundaries regarding usage should lie. Parents out there know that gaming addiction exists because we know how our kids react when we tell them to turn off the video games.

Occasionally we might even joke about our kids being “addicted” to their beloved Fortnite or Roblox, but it turns out that gaming addiction is no laughing matter.

Now, I’m not knocking video games here. I have such fond memories of the hours I spent trying to win Level 8-4 on Super Mario Brothers… after blowing into the Nintendo cartridge to get it to work, of course.

Video games can be such a fun part of childhood- with the right balance. 

Granted, it’s a first-world problem, but kids being fully addicted to video games has now become a large enough problem that it’s been studied by various mental health organizations.

While excess addiction to video games was declared to be a potential concern under the newly coined term “gaming disorder” by the World Health Organization back in June 2018, the problem isn’t going away. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

At the 72nd World Health Assembly on May 25, the World Health Organization officially added ‘gaming disorder’ to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is a list of modern-day diseases. 

Gaming addiction is now technically deemed an actual illness, & will be featured in the updated ICD manual to be released in January 2022.

What are the characteristics of true gaming addiction versus simply having an intense passion for video games? The official definition of gaming disorder is listed under the “disorders due to addictive behavior” category of the ICD. According to the description, it is: 

a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests & daily activities & continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

In order to really gauge a true gaming addiction in an individual, an observed pattern of behavior illustrating significant impairment to an individual’s social, educational, family and personal functioning over a period of at least 12 months. 

Now, not everyone unilaterally agrees that gaming addiction is an actual illness.

Although the World Health Organization has officially included it in their Classification of Official Diseases, it will likely be some time before it is universally recognized.

Various medical groups and gaming industry trade groups cite contradictory research to oppose the WHO’s findings.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) disagrees with the label, stating that technology has been an integral part of developing useful material in not just the gaming world, but in health and education sectors as well.

ESA President Stanley Pierre-Louis stated to online publication GamesIndustry.biz that:

The concern raised by what the World health organization is doing, particularly given the lack of scientific evidence and consensus behind their proposal, puts that at risk.

While the decision of the WHO might seem controversial, it’s nevertheless an important wake-up call to parents.

Are all kids addicted to video games? Of course not. Are all kids at risk for becoming addicted to video games? Not necessarily. Video games themselves are not the problem; the amount of time that we allow our children to play video games is what needs to be evaluated.

Let common sense rule. Before you either scoff at the WHO’s decision to recognize gaming disorder as an illness or decide to ban video gaming in your home forever, pay attention to the amount of gaming your child is doing.

Is gaming affecting his or her school performance? Connection to peers? Attitude at home? If so, time to take measures, because it could be gaming addiction. 

If your child is playing a lot but still engaging appropriately in other areas, no problem!

Regardless of whether or not you agree that excessive gaming can be an addictive illness, the WHO’s view of gaming can make us more mindful of the potential for over-use of technology. And that doesn’t just apply to our kids, but to us as parents, too.

Avoiding excess tech use is a good way to avoid gaming addiction from morphing into a family-wide problem, illness or otherwise.

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