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A Conceptual Review of Research on the Pathological Use of Computers, Video Games, and the Internet

Abstract

Preliminary research studies suggest that some people who use computer, video games, and the Internet heavily develop dysfunctional symptoms, often referred to in the popular press as an “addiction.” Although several studies have measured various facets of this issue, there has been no common framework within which to view these studies. This paper aims to provide a conceptual framework of “impulse control disorders” and describe what is known currently based on a review of the international literature, and highlight what remains to be studied. We suggest the term “Pathological Technology Use” (PTU) rather than “internet addiction”, since there is robust construct validity (via convergent validity and comorbidity) for pathological computer, video game and Internet use, regardless of how individual researchers defined or measured it. Questions concerning diagnostic criteria are raised, and a common set of diagnostic criteria is proposed.

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Appendix A: Suggested Pathological Computer/Video Game Use Questionnaire Items for Adults (Recommended scale: Yes/No/Sometimes)

Appendix A: Suggested Pathological Computer/Video Game Use Questionnaire Items for Adults (Recommended scale: Yes/No/Sometimes)

Persistent and recurrent maladaptive use of computers, video games, the Internet, or other digital technologies, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. 1.

    During the past year, have you become more preoccupied with playing video games, studying video game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?

  2. 2.

    In the past year, do you need to spend more and more time and/or money on video games in order to achieve the desired excitement? (Y/N/S)

  3. 3.

    In the past year, have you sometimes tried to limit your own playing? (Y/N) If yes, are you successful in limiting yourself? (Y/N/S)

  4. 4.

    In the past year, have you become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop playing video games? (Y/N/S)

  5. 5.

    In the past year, have you played video games as a way of escaping from problems or bad feelings? (Y/N/S)

  6. 6.

    In the past year, have you ever lied to family or friends about how much you play video games? (Y/N/S)

  7. 7.

    In the past year, have you ever committed illegal/unsocial acts such as theft from family, friends, or elsewhere in order to get video games? (Y/N/S)

  8. 8.

    In the past year, have you ever neglected household chores to spend more time playing video games?

  9. 9.

    (For students) In the past year, have you ever done poorly on a school assignment or test because you spent too much time playing video games? (For non-students) In the past year, has your work ever suffered (e.g., postponing things, not meeting deadlines, being too tired to function well, etc.) because you spent too much time playing video games? (Y/N/S)

  10. 10.

    In the past year, have you ever needed friends or family to help you financially because you spent too much money on video game equipment, software, or game/Internet fees? (Y/N/S)

Notes: These items are shown for measuring pathological video game use, but should be modified to ask about computer use and Internet use if one wanted to measure those specifically. If one wished to assess all three foci, we recommend measuring each individually by three full sets of items.

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Sim, T., Gentile, D.A., Bricolo, F. et al. A Conceptual Review of Research on the Pathological Use of Computers, Video Games, and the Internet. Int J Ment Health Addiction 10, 748–769 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-011-9369-7

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Keywords

  • Addiction
  • Pathological
  • Computer
  • Video games
  • Internet
  • Technology
  • Impulse control disorders