Video games, screen time linked to compulsive behavior

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New research suggests there may be a link between the number of hours a child spends playing video games and their risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Carol Yepes/fake images
  • A new study has found an association between screen time and the development of OCD in tweens.
  • Playing video games and watching videos were the most strongly linked.
  • However, traditional television viewing was not related to OCD.
  • Experts say that parents can help their children by setting limits and modeling good habits.

a new to study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health reports that for tweens, the amount of screen time spent was linked to the future development of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In fact, the lead author of the study Dr AS Jason Nagataassistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said that every hour of video game play per day increased a child’s chance of developing OCD by 15 percent.

Each additional hour per day of watching videos, such as on YouTube, also increased the odds by 11%.

According to the report, OCD is a mental disorder in which a person has recurring, intrusive thoughts and feels compelled to perform certain repetitive behaviors.

The study authors note that OCD can have severely debilitating effects that last into a person’s adult life.

Since the incidence of OCD tends to peak between the ages of 9 and 10, Nagata and her team chose to examine children of this age for their study.

More than 9,000 US children were included in the analysis, which used data from the ABCD study.

The sample was almost equally balanced between boys and girls, as well as being racially and ethnically diverse.

The researchers analyzed the data at baseline and two years later.

To determine screen time, each child took a survey asking questions about how many hours they typically spend in various types of screen time, including watching TV or movies, watching videos, playing video games, texting, chatting on videos and social networks. This information was used to calculate how much screen time children spent on a typical day.

A diagnostic tool called the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (KSADS-5) was used to assess whether study participants had OCD at two years.

The researchers found that each additional hour of total screen time was linked to an increased odds of having an OCD diagnosis after two years.

Hours watching videos and playing video games were the most strongly linked to this effect.

In an interview with Healthline, Nagata said that kids who spent a lot of time playing video games reported feeling the urge to play more and more and not being able to stop despite wanting to.

“Intrusive thoughts about video game content could turn into obsessions or compulsions,” he explained.

Nagata further noted that YouTube videos can enable compulsive viewing, saying algorithms and ads can exacerbate obsessions and compulsions.

He added that an “interesting” observation made was that they found no association between traditional TV viewing and OCD.

“With traditional television, it is more difficult to be so focused on one area since there are limited channels and programming,” he explained.

Dr Hanna GarzaClinical Director of Texas Child Health Access via Telemedicine (TCHATT), at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in El Paso, Texas (TTUHSC EP) said: “This study is unique and I would like to see it do similar studies on this topic. .”

However, he noted that there were several limitations.

Screen time was self-reported, which Garza said could lead to social desirability bias. In other words, children can report what they think they should be saying instead of how many hours they actually spend.

Furthermore, he said the correlation between screen time and OCD needs further exploration as it is “insubstantial” since the study only focused on video gaming and video viewing.

In addition, he noted that the study did not measure the quality or content of screen time to make a connection between the variables.

And finally, he said the study didn’t specify whether the screen time was recreational or not.

Nagata explained that an additional limitation was the young age of the participants. “Although we did not find an association between social media and OCD, the children in this study were between the ages of 9 and 10 at the start of the study and were younger than the age of use for most social media platforms.

“The use of social networks is expected to increase from the beginning to the end of adolescence,” he added.

Garza expressed the importance of balance in helping kids use their screen time wisely.

“Balance is extremely important in life, especially when it comes to children and adolescents,” she said.

“It is beneficial to explore different interests and experience fun things, but it should be done in moderation to allow for other activities like learning, chores, and family time to occur.”

Nagata suggested that parents should regularly talk with their children about their use of screen time and develop a family media use plan. This plan could include setting limits and encouraging screen time, such as before bed or during meals, Nagata said.

Nagata also stressed the importance of parents modeling good screen behavior for their children.

He concluded by stating that the warning signs of problematic screen use are when it begins to affect a child’s quality of life, relationships, and daily functioning.

“Kids may not be able to control or reduce screen use. They may lose interest in other activities. Screen use worries their thoughts,” she said.

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