Video Gaming, Internet Usage and the Impact on Psychiatric Health Among Youth

Poster: Can Violence and Self-Harming Behavior Result When Face to Face Socialization is Replaced by Video-Gaming and Screen Life – The Case of a Teenager

Authors: Courtney Kusler MD, Ulziibat Person MD PhD, Puja Bhardwaj MD, Tazeen Azfar MD, Ijendu Korie MD, and Karl Zate MD.

One case of an adolescent male shines a light on the impact video gaming and internet usage addiction have on poor mental health outcomes in children and teens.

Case Details

A 15-year-old white male was brought into the ER due to expressing homicidal ideation, according to his parents. This male had no known psychiatric history, but his parents discovered evidence of violent behavior and thoughts prior and just after his admittance into the ER, such as cuts on his arm and a journal depicting homicidal thoughts aimed at his family. Following these disturbing findings, the patient spent just over 3 weeks in the child and adolescent psychiatric ward and began taking Prozac 10mg, eventually up to 40mg and discharged.

Further background on this patient includes that he had little physical social interaction among friends, partaking in video game playing since the age 6, and spending more than 6 hours playing games on weekdays and more on weekends. Although a formal diagnosis could not be made due to the patient’s age, psychological testing did indicate signs of schizoid personality traits.

To avoid such negative outcomes among children, adolescents, and their families, the APA recommends the following:

  • For children under 18-24 months, avoid digital media use expect video chatting.
  • For children 18-24 months, introductions to digital media are recommended so long as high-quality programming is chosen and partaken with a guardian.
  • For children 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming where guardians should watch with children and educate on what is being displayed on screens.
  • For children 6 to 18 years old, the APA recommends families use a “Family Media Use Plan” to set boundaries, expectations, and monitorization of digital media usage.

Some highlights of a “Family Media Use Plan” include:

  • Screen free zones – where is screen time allowed and where is it not?
  • Enact screen time curfews.
  • Carefully choose media and co-view.
  • Encourage healthy behaviors (i.e. respect and good manners during play)
  • Set safety rules; what can be shared over digital media and what cannot?
  • Finally, ensure the child is receiving adequate sleep and exercise when they are not engaging in digital media.

Years of research and this case about excessive use of video games and internet addition show how crucial it is for clinicians to stress the importance to parents/guardians to monitor digital media content consumption among children and adolescents to prevent poor psychiatric outcomes.