Monday, July 02, 2018

Both Gaming And Pocket Rectangles Are Process Addictions

WaPo |  For many people, leisure time now means screen time. Mom’s on social media, Dad’s surfing the Web, sister is texting friends, and brother is playing a multiplayer shooting game like Fortnite.
But are they addicted? In June, the World Health Organization announced that “gaming disorder” would be included in its disease classification manual, reigniting debates over whether an activity engaged in by so many could be classified as a disorder.

Experts were quick to point out that only 1 to 3 percent of gamers are likely to fit the diagnostic criteria, such as lack of control over gaming, giving gaming priority over other activities and allowing gaming to significantly impair such important areas of life as social relationships.

Those low numbers may give the impression that most people don’t have anything to worry about. Not true. Nearly all teens, as well as most adults, have been profoundly affected by the increasing predominance of electronic devices in our lives. Many people suspect that today’s teens spend much more time with screens and much less time with their peers face-to-face than did earlier generations, and my analysis of numerous large surveys of teens of various ages shows this to be true: The number of 17- and 18-year-olds who get together with their friends every day, for example, dropped by more than 40 percent between 2000 and 2016. Teens are also sleeping less, with sleep deprivation spiking after 2010. Similar to the language in the WHO’s addiction criteria, they are prioritizing time on their electronic devices over other activities (and no, it’s not because they are studying more: Teens actually spend less time on homework than students did in the 1990s). Regardless of any questions around addiction, how teens spend their free time has fundamentally shifted.

If teens were doing well, this might be fine. But they are not: Clinical-level depression, self-harm behavior (such as cutting), the number of suicide attempts and the suicide rate for teens all rose sharply after 2010, when smartphones became common and the iPad was introduced. Teens who spend excessive amounts of time online are more likely to be sleep deprived, unhappy and depressed. Nor are the effects small: For example, teens who spent five or more hours a day using electronic devices were 66 percent more likely than those who spent just one hour to have at least one risk factor for suicide, such as depression or a previous suicide attempt.