South Florida Doc Studies Video Game Addiction

Gamers' lives taken over by consoles

The allure of video games -- the lights, the sounds, the desire to get to the next level -- for most kids and teens is a fun way to pass the time or take a break from homework. But when it takes over your life, that's a problem.

According to a new Iowa State University Study, nearly 1 in 10 gamers becomes addicted. Their intense behavior researchers say actually mirrors that of people obsessed with gambling. For the young person, that addiction can lead to serious problems such as depression, anxiety, and social phobias.

So what causes a child to cross over from normal play into something more dangerous? According to local psychologist Dr. Scott Poland of Nova Southeastern University, it can be the result of a personality factor.

"But also things we contribute would be not a lot of success in the rest of their life, not being on any kind of team or not participating in any clubs at school, not having a lot of friends," Poland says. "The video games give them a place to feel powerful and make up for other shortcomings."

Anthony Wood, 20, is a South Florida college student who started playing video games at the age of 6. He says it was another way to have fun.

"Before I would be running outside or reading a book and this was something new," Wood says. "As I got older, I got into different video games. Really, what drew me in was the challenge, it's never boring."

But it also became time consuming. Sometimes Wood would play anywhere from 4 to 10 hours a day. 

"There were two days straight where I basically beat the game in two days and then afterwards, I slept."

But he doesn't feel his play ever crossed the line into addiction.

"I would use video games in a wrong way sometimes, " he says.  "It would keep me from my studying or things that I had to do, but I wouldn't say it got so bad that I was addicted."

So what are the signs of addiction? According to Dr. Poland, a young person would be withdrawing from their family and friends and spending an excessive amount of time in their room playing video games.

"You might see their grades suffer, you might see some changes in their behavior," Poland said.

Seida Wood, Anthony's mother, says there was a time she and her husband worried.

"It was something new and we didn't know what he was watching.  You could put blocks for other stuff, like pornography, but this? He became interactive (online) with other people and he said they would be his friend and we were so nervous about that," she said. 

Eventually, they forced him to step away from the controller and join in on family activities and that seemed to work. Despite their concerns, she says he always kept his grades up.

Dr. Poland says parents need to educate themselves about the Internet and set limits.

"I believe we need to stop letting video games and technology steal our children," he said. "Their lives need to revolve around their school, home, and family."

Anthony is now studying premed at St. Thomas University and has a girlfriend, both dominating his time now over game play.

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