08 Dec 2010
NEARLY 9 per cent of young people in Singapore are "pathological gamers" – addicts who spend hours playing video games, and whose schoolwork and social skills suffer as a result.
They play for about 37.5 hours each week, double the 18.8 hours spent by non-addicts on such games, according to a recent study funded by the Education Ministry and Media Development Authority.
Pathological gamers are also more likely to have poorer social skills, suffer from hand and wrist pain, sleep too little and face problems in school.
For example, they may neglect doing homework, said the study helmed by Dr Angeline Khoo of the National Institute of Education (NIE).
Researchers from NIE, the National University of Singapore, Iowa State University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University were roped in to conduct the study. The findings were published in Annals, a journal by the Academy of Medicine here.
Nearly 3,000 primary and secondary schoolchildren took part in the study, which was conducted from June last year to September this year.
They were asked about their video gaming habits. Ten symptoms of addiction were raised in the questionnaire, including falling grades, skipping school activities to play video games and lying about time spent on gaming.
Those with five or more such symptoms are considered "pathological".
The study found that 12.6 per cent of boys fell under this group, compared with 4.7 per cent of girls.
Dr Ng Beng Yeong, who heads the psychiatry department at the Singapore General Hospital, said the study is significant as it pinpoints the social and psychological issues that come with gaming.
"The findings will have implications on how parents, teachers and society in general regulate the playing of video games among the youth in Singapore," he said.
For example, parents should limit the time spent on game play to two hours daily, according to standards set by the American Academy of Paediatrics.
Teachers are also advised to incorporate gaming issues in lessons, and identify students at risk of gaming addiction.
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Dept of Psychiatry
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