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Video game addiction: what it is, how to recognize it, and advice from science

Since their introduction in the 1980s, video games have become a fundamental part of the lives of children and adolescents (and adults as well). The consumption of video game material has increased over the years to the point of generating a billion-dollar industry every year.

However, children, especially the youngest, are increasingly exposed to and immersed in this virtual world, and such situations can easily lead to real addictions. This was precisely the study conducted, in Italy, thanks to an agreement between the Anti-Drug Policies Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the National Addiction and Doping Centre of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.

One of the foremost experts in cyber-security also spoke, who gave some very useful advice on how to detect discomfort in children and how to deal with it.

Freepik
Video game addiction: what it is, how to recognize it, and advice from science
Since their introduction in the 1980s, video games have become a fundamental part of the lives of children and adolescents (and adults as well). The consumption of video game material has increased over the years to the point of generating a billion-dollar industry every year. However, children, especially the youngest, are increasingly exposed to and immersed in this virtual world, and such situations can easily lead to real addictions. This was precisely the study conducted, in Italy, thanks to an agreement between the Anti-Drug Policies Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the National Addiction and Doping Centre of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. One of the foremost experts in cyber-security also spoke, who gave some very useful advice on how to detect discomfort in children and how to deal with it.
Freepik
Internet Gaming Disorder 
This recently coined term usually refers to the desire or urge to take part in online video games, often with other people who are not physically present on the premises, and to have such a craving that it becomes a compulsive activity, to the extent that it causes significant psychological discomfort.
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The Italian study
The study was conducted in Italy thanks to an agreement between the Anti-Drug Policy Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the National Centre for Addiction and Doping of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. The survey took into consideration more than 8700 young people between the ages of 11 and 17, approximately 3600 from secondary schools and 5100 from secondary schools.
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The general results of the study
The sample interviewed was taken as representative of the entire national population of teenagers, and was conducted with the aim of analysing the risk behaviour of Generation Z, in particular on addictions, not only to video games but also to food and social networking. According to the results, it is assumed that at least 500,000 children and adolescents in Italy are affected by this disorder caused by addiction to video games, not only online.
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The data obtained on the Internet Gaming Disorder 
The risk of discomfort due to consoles (Internet Gaming Disorder) concerns about 12% of students (more or less 480,000 Italian boys), especially males: the percentage reaches 18% in male secondary school students and 13.8% in high school students (instead it is 10.8% in middle schools and 5.5% in high schools for girls). Speaking of age, the danger is greatest in middle school with 14.3% of boys potentially at risk, but the figure drops to 10.2% in high school.
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Factors associated with video game addiction
The problems resulting from video game abuse, it was analysed, are twofold: the risk of 'moderately severe or severe depression' is 5.54 times higher in 11-13 year olds and 3.49 in 14-17 year olds. Speaking of another aspect, namely social anxiety, here the risk of developing it is 3.65 times higher than average in 11-13 year olds and 5.80 in 14-17 year olds.
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Don't demonize use, but abuse
The problem, of course, is not video games themselves. Studies have shown that moderate exposure to video games improves both hand-eye coordination, basic reflexes and memory. However, when it lapses into abuse, then the impact these negative behaviours can have on everyday life comes into play.
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The alarm bells that parents need to catch
According to computer security expert Lauren Mak of VPNOverview.com, there are certain signs that can show this type of addiction. For example, lack of interest in activities that used to attract them and at the same time lack of desire to take part in activities other than video games. Other symptoms are irritability, mood swings, impatience, anxiety and anger when not playing games, even for short periods; insomnia and changes in eating habits; inability to take care of personal hygiene; poor concentration at school; and reduced empathy in dealing with others.
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The causes of the development of addiction
According to the expert, there are several causes. First of all, children are now exposed to video games and tablets from an early age, something that has never happened before in human history. Moreover, today's video games are increasingly stimulating and addictive, with graphics and stories that are designed to keep the player glued to the screen. Moreover, for many children this could be a way to escape the reality they live in, perhaps with difficult family or school situations. Finally, according to the expert, children who are particularly anxious or have attention deficit disorders would seem to be more prone to become addicted to video games.
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Some useful tips
Much in these cases is the behaviour of the parents, who must not be afraid to talk openly with their child about any causes of psychological distress in his or her life. Showing responsible screen use is also a good starting point. Tradition: if the parent does not abuse it, the child will also be less prone to heavy use of video games and screens. Also, as soon as you notice the child's withdrawal symptoms, try to involve him/her in stimulating activities, or otherwise offer a distraction such as playing a sport or an activity together with the family. Furthermore, the parent should have a positive attitude towards video games, perhaps trying to take an interest and develop positive conversations about them.
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