Video games ‘increase risk of OCD in children’

Posted: 14th December 2022

Source: Telegraph

Study of nine and 10-year-olds concludes that hours spent playing increases danger of ‘obsessions or compulsions’.

Video games raise the risk of obsessive compulsive disorder in children, a new study suggests.

Researchers in the US asked more than 9,000 children aged between nine and 10 how much time they spent playing video games and watching videos.

Two years later, they checked to see which youngsters had gone on to develop OCD. They found that the the risk of OCD was increased by 13 per cent for each average hour a day spent playing computer games, while for time spent watching videos the risk was raised by 11 per cent per average hour a day.

Dr Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, said: “Children who spend excessive time playing video games report feeling the need to play more and more and being unable to stop despite trying.

“Intrusive thoughts about video game content could develop into obsessions or compulsions.”

Dr Nagata warned that watching videos could also make pre-teens want to compulsively view similar content, a problem often exacerbated by algorithms and advertisements.

OCD is a mental health condition involving recurrent and unwanted thoughts as well as repetitive behaviours that a person feels driven to perform.

Parents advised to plan screen-free times

“Screen addictions are associated with compulsivity and loss of behavioural control, which are core symptoms of OCD,” said Dr Nagata.

“Although screen time can have important benefits such as education and increased socialisation, parents should be aware of the potential risks, especially to mental health. Families can develop a media use plan which could include screen-free times including before bedtime.”

Researchers found that most pre-teens were watching videos or playing video games for an average of 3.9 hours a day.  Use of screens for educational purposes was excluded from the study.

During the two-year follow-up period, 4.4 per cent of pre-teens had developed new-onset OCD.

Video games and streaming videos were connected to higher risk of developing OCD although there was no link between texting, video chat and social media.

In July, Dr Nagata and his colleagues discovered that excessive screen time was linked to disruptive behaviour disorders in nine to 11-year-olds, with social media the biggest contributor. In 2021, they found that adolescent screen time had doubled during the pandemic.

The findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Official data show that in 2021/2022, there were more than 23,000 referrals to the NHS in England for OCD, more than twice as many as in 2013/2014, when there were 9,146.

But scientists have warned people not to confuse quirky behaviours with OCD traits.

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