The classification of “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization (WHO) was “premature” and based on a “moral panic”, experts have suggested.
They contended that while the decision was well intentioned, there was a lack of good quality scientific evidence about how to properly diagnose video game addiction, the BBC reported.
According to the WHO, a person has gaming disorder if they have impaired control over gaming, in terms of frequency, intensity, duration, and termination.
These people give increasing priority to gaming “to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests”, and that they will continue gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences, it said.
But the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people, the report said.
“We’re essentially pathologising a hobby, so what’s next? There are studies on tanning addiction, dance addiction, exercise addiction, but nobody is having a conversation about including them in ICD-11…,” Peter Etchells, from the Bath Spa University, was quoted as saying to the BBC.
However, the WHO noted that it had reviewed available evidence before including it, adding that it had taken into account views reflecting a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions”.
According to Etchells, estimates of those who are addicted range from fewer than 0.5 per cent to nearly 50 per cent of players, which meant there was a danger of failing to identify who actually had a problem and who just enjoyed playing games.
“What we’re doing then is over-diagnosing, we’re sort of pathologising a behaviour that for many people is not harmful in any way,” he noted.
The experts were also sceptical that screen time overall — including the use of devices like smartphones and tablets — was harmful for children and adolescents.
As of now it is better for people to keep smartphones and other screens out of theirs and their children’s bedrooms at night.
“The best evidence that we currently have really suggests that some screen time and video game playing is better than none at all, particularly for child well-being,” Etchells noted.