FARGO — Summer vacation is here, and with school out, more free time means many children will turn to video games.
About 97% of teen boys and 83% of teen girls play video games, according to the Pew Research Center, and some researchers and health experts worry the immersive form of entertainment may carry a risk for addiction.
Enough so, in fact, for the World Health Organization to include "gaming disorder" in the most recently-approved edition of its disease classification manual.
Casual gamers needn't worry too much, however. Games need to interfere with work, education and everyday life to be considered a health problem, said Dr. Keith Donohue, a psychology resident at Sanford Health in Moorhead.
"Can you do the stuff you need to do to interact with friends and family?" is one of the questions Donohue says a person should ask themselves when evaluating their gaming habits, explaining that in order for a person to be diagnosed with video game addiction habits need to get in the way of things like personal hygiene, using the bathroom and sleeping.
Playing video games isn't a bad thing unless it's severely impacting your life, Donohue said. "If you go back far enough in history, there's a lot of concern about kids becoming addicted to comic books or even radio shows . . . the idea that an entertaining thing is bad or addictive I think is misguided."
Donohue also points out that video game addiction isn't listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook, the standard guide American psychologists use to diagnose mental disorders. Without this official listing, he said it would be hard to bill health insurance companies for costs associated with treating a gaming addiction problem.
Cassidy Schnasse, co-owner of the Fargo pay-by-hour video game library, Replay Games, says the discussion is more active now because video games are more popular than ever before.
Schnasse said concerns may come from the fact that older generations see kids playing more video games than they used to decades ago and might not know what to make of it.
"I don't think it's as serious of an issue as they're making it seem," he said.
Schnasse thinks parents should worry more about the content of video games than the amount of time spent playing them.
"I'd rather see my kid watch the Mythbusters all day than the Jersey Shore," he said, using TV shows as an example.
There are rare cases where gaming can go too far, but both Schnase and Donohue say there are often underlying problems that are behind a gaming problem, and that it may not be the games themselves.
Like most fun things, too much can be bad. Their advice is to take it in moderation.