When Emma, a mother in the Philippines noticed that her 15-year-old son had been spent almost his entire summer vacation in his bedroom in front of his computer, she was actually relieved. At least she knew where he was all the time, and she did not have to worry about who he was with.
But there were times when he'd come out of his room scowling, muttering to himself, not minding that other family members were in the house. He would get himself a mug of chocolate drink, and then disappear again into his room, locking the door behind him. Attempts to draw him into conversation were rebuffed, most of the time quite impolitely. Occasionally, Emma would stand by his locked door, where she could hear him arguing with an inaudible person. When he started taking food into his room, Emma drew the line. All meals were to be taken at the family dining table, with all family members present. When she caught him sneaking food into his room, she confiscated his machine, telling him that from then on his only computer time was on Saturdays.
Not two days after sequestering of the laptop, her son became more amiable, making small conversation with most everyone he encounters on the way out as he heads off to school. Emma is convinced that the unlimited, almost constant access to the Internet is the culprit.
In the US, the American Medical Association (AMA) is trying to lobby for excessive video-game playing to be officially classified as a psychiatric disorder to raise awareness and enable sufferers to get insurance coverage for treatment. The death of Liz Woolleey's 21 year old son by a self-inflicted gunshot wound six years ago while he was playing an online game inside his apartment, has caused scientists to ask that excessive online gaming and computer use be considered an addiction.
With some doctors contending video games can be as addictive as heroin, the American Medical Association recommends:
--Establishing improved ratings systems for video games.
--Educating doctors and families on appropriate use of video games.
--Restricting screen time, including games, to 1-2 hours daily.
--Increasing parental monitoring.
--Expanding research into effects of games and use of Internet by children under 18.
--Making "Internet/video game addiction" a formal diagnostic disorder.
In order to determine whether or not they are addicted to video games, Maressa Hecht Orzack, director of the computer addiction studies center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., asks her patients:
--When you're not playing a game, do you find it difficult not to think about it?
--Are you uninterested in anything else besides games?
--Do you feel unable to control how much you play?
--Are you often late for appointments because of your game play?
--Are you having difficulty managing daily life?
--Do you skip meals to play?
--When you feel alone, do you use games to communicate?
--Do you spend more than three hours at a stretch playing?
--Is game play preventing you from getting enough sleep?
--Do you have headaches, dizziness or seizures?
It is estimated that around 5 million U.S. youngsters may be addicted to video games, the American Medical Association reports.