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Online gaming as an addiction among children

The world we are living in now, technological development is so vast that it has its impact on every single person. Even children are becoming addicted to technological devices.

In Finland almost everyone has an internet connection. Although, it was estimated during the COVID-19 pandemic that in global context two thirds of school-aged children aged 3 to 17 lack it at home (UNICEF, 2020). Technologies are becoming increasingly interconnected and increasingly complicated at the same time. Online gaming is the forefront of technological advancement. It is so popular that statistics show that the global online market generated approximately 26,14 billion USD in revenues in 2023. There are currently 1,1 billion online gamers worldwide and the leading countries in the race are China, South Korea, and Japan. (Clement, 2024.) In Finland, 59 percent of us play occasionally and 62 percent actively digital games. The number of players has slightly decreased from 2020 (Kinnunen et al., 2022).

Online gaming is a vast growing industry. All kinds of games played on consoles, computers, tablets, or mobile devices using the internet connection are called online gaming. Every game has its own specific features. Within the online gaming industry falls all the game developers, streaming services, distributors, retailers, and mobile games. Multiplayer gaming seems to be the most popular type where many players can play as a group against another group from different locations, enabling real time interaction and competition. From generating billions every year to the increased numbers of games online, online gaming is sure a source of entertainment and continues to grow (Katatikarn, 2024).

Platforms allow children communicate with others

Online gaming is a platform where the children are involved in communication with others. Ofcom (2023) has studied the online gaming of children between 8 and 17 years old. According to Ofcom (2023) every fourth child in Great Britain has played games against or with someone who they have never met in real life and 22 percent of these players have even talked to them while playing games.

Online gaming as an addiction

Classification of online gaming as an addiction or mental disorder is a subject of debate. World Health Organization has described Internet online gaming as, ‘‘a pattern of gaming behavior (digital-gaming, video-gaming) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming take precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.’’ Digital gambling addiction has been classified as a functional addiction as well as gambling addiction in the revised WHO ICD-11 disease classification (Castrén et al., 2023).

Online gaming’s pros and cons for children

Although people initially started online gaming as a form of entertainment, with technological advancement it is now used also as a tool of learning. Game-based learning is fun, engaging and offers instant rewards. Hence, effective in achieving learning goals. Children of this era are so smart that often even without help they learn to use smart phones and play games.

The use of online games is criticized because gamers tend to spend a lot of time, energy as well as money into games which can have adverse effects in their academic performance, social interaction, physical and mental health. The addiction of gaming can cause mental health problems such as poor sleeping pattern, depression, anxiety and even death.

Although people initially started online gaming as a form of entertainment, with technological advancement it is now used also as a tool of learning.

During the developmental stage, children tend to be curious about everything and they want to explore their surroundings. Online gaming is a subject of interest for everyone including children and they start gaming as a source of fun in initial stage. But since online games come with various features and challenges that once children start playing, they forget to keep track of time.

Online gaming addiction results in laziness among players and their attentiveness towards their studies and other activities decline tremendously. Small children particularly of elementary school-age are supposed to be enjoying plays with their peers out in the environment and be enthusiasts for learning new things but once they start playing online games, they start lacking personal and social connections and exhibit reduced enthusiasm for learning. They become more lethargic, weak, and sleepy as their sleep patterns change and they start neglecting their eating habits after they become addicted to online gaming. According to the studies done previously, it has been stated that children who play violent games are more likely to be violent in real life.

Positive health impacts

There is research that shows the positive effects of online gaming to personal psychological growth and growth of interpersonal relationships. Engaging into any kind of games could help in reducing depression, anxiety, and stress. Gamers can increase social skills, improve learning ability, and learn the importance of teamwork via games. Digital games and virtual reality have been used in medical education, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and forensic medicine in response to child abuse cases. Therefore, it is evident that video games and mobile apps have positive impact for children in terms of positive changes in behavior and health promotion. (Asadzadeh et al., 2022.)

Research done in Brazil with children aged 7 to 12 years presented that the process of designing video games for children and its positive impact in take care of the disease such as Diabetes Mellitus 1 by the knowledge determinant (Sparapani et al., 2022). Active video games could be an exercising strategy to increase physical activities. There are games like Mindlight, SPARX, that have been used in treating depression and anxiety in children (Schoneveld et al., 2020).

With friends we often joke that our kids are not watching tv, rather the tv is looking over the kids giving the mothers some free time to tend to some house chores while they are busy watching tv. One morning I woke up listening to my kids count from 1 to 10 when they were just around 2 years old. They learned counting from videos. Similarly, they learned about colors, English language and singing rhymes and while growing up they were able to download games, learn its features and play without their parents’ help. It can thus be said that this generation’s kids are smarter compared to their parents in that age. These are just a few examples of positive sides of online games or videos. With technological advancement, the use of online gaming apps is found to be used also in health sectors.


Addiction to gaming is now defined in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11) as a mental health problem following the symptoms such as: preoccupation with gaming; becoming sad, anxious, and irritable upon unavailability of games; spending more time gaming; unable to quit gaming or lessen the gaming time; giving up on other activities other than gaming; continuously playing games despite of many other problems; becoming unsocial due to gaming; playing game to overcome negative thoughts; loss of job or relationship due to gaming. One must experience at least five or more of these mentioned symptoms in a one-year period to be diagnosed with online gaming disease. Americal Journal of Psychiatry shows relatively a small proportion of players might be diagnosed with this disorder and that mentally, physically, and emotionally weaker than other players with not symptoms. (Sherer, 2023.)

The pharmacological treatment of ADHD would also be effective for gaming disorder symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and oppositional defiant disorder. The combination of pharmacological and psychological intervention is effective for the treatment of internet disorder. Internet gaming disorder (IGD) in young children is often comorbid with other neurological disorders such as ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Pharmacological intervention is equally important in treating internet gaming disorder. Escitalopram for depression, bupropion for impulsivity and psychostimulant drugs like methylphenidate are effective for internet gaming disorder.

Children’s aggressive behavior is directly associated with socio-demographic factors such as family size, income, family members and their highest academic level, household type (single parent or both parents). The family environment has the greatest impact on gaming disorder symptomatology. Family support with better living conditions have negative association with gaming disorder symptoms.

When it comes to treating online gaming addiction, one important aspect is also that parents of addicted gamers are to be encouraged for early diagnosis and treatment to prevent serious consequences later in life. Not just parents, but also the government should be promoting appropriate and effective treatment guidelines to strengthen the mental health education of youth. For young gamers who are not yet diagnosed with IGD, their family members, teachers, and other supporters should be trained to deal with issues in early stage so that it does not turn into serious issues. A counselling by professionals or by child psychiatrists to young gamers and their family members can help in establishing healthy online use habits and prevent children from IGD.


Areshtanab, H. N., Fathollahpour, F., Bostanabad, M. A., Ebrahimi, H., Hosse-inzadeh, M., & Fooladi, M. M. (2021). Internet gaming disorder and its relationship with behavioral disorder and mother’s parenting styles in primary school students according to gender in Iran. BMC psychology, 9(1), 110.

Asadzadeh, A., Shahrokhi, H., Shalchi, B., Khamnian, Z., & Rezaei-Hachesu, P. (2022). Digital games and virtual reality applications in child abuse: A scoping review and conceptual framework. PLoS one, 17(11), e0276985.

Clement, J. (2024). Online gaming – Statistics & Facts.

Castrén, S., Ulfves, N. & Levola, J. (2023). Digipelaaminen voi kehittyä riippuvuudeksi: digipeliriippuvuus häiriönä ICD-11-tautiluokituksessa. Duodecim, 139(15), 1169–1176.

Katatikarn, J. (2024). Online Gaming Statistics and Facts: The Definitive Guide (2024). Academy of Animated Art.

Kinnunen, J., Tuomela, M., & Mäyrä, F. (2022). Pelaajabarometri: Kohti uutta normaalia.

Ofcom. (29.3.2023). Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes. Available

Salerno, L., Becheri, L., & Pallanti, S. (2022). ADHD-Gaming Disorder Comorbidity in Children and Adolescents: A Narrative Review. Children, 9(10), 1528–N.PAG.

Schoneveld, E. A., Wols, A., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Otten, R., & Granic, I. (2020). Mental Health Outcomes of an Applied Game for Children with Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Non-inferiority Trial. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 29(8), 2169–2185.

Sparapani, V. C., Fels, S., Kamal, N., Ortiz La Banca, R., & Nascimento, L. C. (2022). A Video Game for Brazilian T1D Children about Knowledge of Disease and Self-care: A Methodological Study. Journal of dia-betes science and technology, 16(6), 1444–1450.

Unicef. (30.11.2020). Two thirds of the world’s school-age children have no internet access at home, new UNICEF-ITU report says. Press release.

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