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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

The Harmful Effects of Excessive Video Gaming

February 12, 2016 - Between checking text messages and playing the latest video game, how much time, on average, do you spend on technology?

New research from CAMH’s Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario (PGIO) suggests that excessive technology use could increase your risk for mental health problems.

Young man playing video games
“Tech is not really the problem, the lack of balance is,” says Doriann Shapiro, Social Worker, PGIO. “Because we are in a technological age, youth are often also using tech for writing and research. But when they are totaling over seven hours a day, finding balance between that is the challenge.”

PGIO research shows an increasing number of youth are seeking help for their video gaming habits. Between June 2014 and May 2015, youth and parents made up 17 per cent of new clients in the program.

According to PGIO, problem video gaming is on the rise in Ontario. The stats show:

  • 10 per cent of students spend at least seven hours a day on technology
  • 21 per cent students play video games daily
  • 12 per cent have video gaming problems
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to engage in problem video gaming

“Problem video gaming has harmful effects on an individual’s social, occupational, family, school, and psychological functioning,” says Lisa Pont, Social Worker, PGIO. “It can result in a loss of control, withdrawal, and escape from difficult feelings.”

“There’s a bit of debate about whether or not you could be addicted to the internet itself or the behavior you’re doing online,” she adds. “But one can argue it’s a little bit of both.”


Concurrent Disorders


PGIO research also shows that youth seeking help with problem video gaming also seek help for co-occurring illnesses.

“29 per cent of our clients have depression,” says Doriann Shapiro. “27 per cent have anxiety and 14 per cent have ADD/ADHD. We are also seeing difficulties in poor social and academic functioning, higher rates of suicidal ideation, and just overall poor general mental health.”

“The good news,” says Lisa Pont “is that treatment programs show greater rates of recovery when the family is involved. Simply taking away the technology is often detrimental to the youth,”  adds Lisa. “Instead of seeing technology as the enemy, working together as a family to provide support goes a long way in dealing with the problem.”

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