Six out of ten young people have already suffered physical symptoms linked to extended use of video and computer games, according to a survey carried out by health insurers Mutualités libres, reported by Le Soir.
According to the survey of 976 young people aged 12 to 23, the average time spent playing games in a week is 11 hours, leading in six out of ten cases to physical symptoms including pain in the neck, eyes, head, thumbs and arms. More than half of those questioned reported having suffered negative emotional effects as a result of gaming. Other effects are a result of the feeling of time wasted, while 43% expressed a fear of developing a dependency on the games.
On the plus side, the poll also showed that sizeable numbers of respondents felt that gaming gave them the feeling of being part of a community of gamers, allowing them not only to pass the time but to get away from everyday reality and enjoy themselves.
And the Mutualités were also keen to report a positive aspect to computer games. “They favour hand-eye coordination, concentration, the resolving of problems, an analytic sense and the experience of meeting challenges and overcoming setbacks,” the group told Le Soir.
According to Yves Collard, an expert in media education, the survey “confirms the interest young people have in their screens, and allows us to understand that games and fiction are important dimensions in their development.”
The number of young people showing real signs of addiction to games is minimal compared to the number who give rise to concern from parents, he said. In any case, he explained, the World Health Organisation refuses to consider anyone under the age of 18 as an addict, since typical behaviours of addicts, such as depression, aggressivity and social withdrawal, are virtually indistinguishable from normal adolescent characteristics.
“As opposed to drugs, addiction to video games does not prevent the person returning one day to a normal, self-regulated consumption,” Collard said. “The results of this survey ought not to worry parents, but rather encourage them to join in with their child in this hobby.”