About one in 10 videogame players show signs of addictive behaviour that could have negative effects on their family, friends and school work, according to a new study.
Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) and the National Institute on Media and the Family found that some gamers show at least six symptoms of gambling addiction such as lying to family and friends about how much they play games, using the games to escape their problems and becoming restless or irritable when they stop playing.
They may also skip homework to play videogames or spend too much time playing the games and do poorly in school.
"While the medical community currently does not recognize video game addiction as a mental disorder, hopefully this study will be one of many that allow us to have an educated conversation on the positive and negative effects of video games," Dr Douglas Gentile, an assistant professor of psychology at ISU, said in a statement.
Dr David Walsh, the president of the National Institute on Media and the Family which strives to minimize the harm of media on the health and development of children and families, said the findings are a wake-up call for families.
"This study gives everyone a better idea of the scope of the problem," he explained.
The researchers, who studied 1,178 American children and teenagers, aged 8 to 18, found some displayed at least six of 11 symptoms of pathological gambling as defined by the American Psychiatric Association.
Addicted gamers played videogames 24 hours a week, twice as much as casual gamers. Some addicted gamers even steal to support their habit, according to the findings that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.
""While video games can be fun and entertaining, some kids are getting into trouble. I continue to hear from families who are concerned about their child's gaming habits. Not only do we need to focus on identifying the problem, but we need to find ways to help families prevent and treat it," said Walsh.