Problematic video game use is strongly associated with insomnia, anxiety, depression, lower academic achievement and substance use. Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, video game use has increased significantly along with social isolation. We aimed to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the video gaming behavior of excessive video game players and the risk factors associated with problematic video game use in adolescents.
This research was carried out at Hacettepe University Children’s Hospital, Adolescent Medicine Clinic as a second step of another study that included 75 adolescents aged 11-18 years with more than 2 hours of video game use per day, data for the first study was collected before the pandemic. This group was defined as the ‘pre-pandemic group’. Among that sample, 56 adolescents agreed to participate in the current study. All data collected for the first study were re-asked online between June and July 2021. This group was defined as the ‘during the pandemic’ group. In addition, 33 adolescents with less than 2 hours of video game use per day, who presented for a routine follow-up agreed to participate as the control group. Data collected included time spent playing video games and other screen-based activities, nicotine and alcohol use, exercise and nutrition status. Additionally, all participants completed the Internet Gaming Disorder Scale-Short Form (IGDS9-SF), Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI). A IGDS9-SF score >21 was accepted as problematic video game use. After pre-pandemic data collection, the group received at least one counseling session aiming to manage online video gaming-related addictive behaviors through motivational interviewing.
The mean age of the adolescents was 14.06±1.87 years pre-pandemic, 15.64±1.71 years during-pandemic and 14.48±1.61 years in the control group. Of the video gamers and control group 89.3% (n:50) and 24.3% (n:8) were male, respectively. Video game time per day (4.86±2.33 vs 6.03±2.42 hours, p=0.037) and other leisure-based screen time (1.93±1.58 vs 4.12±1.94, hours p=0.000) increased significantly during the pandemic among video game players. While, both pre-pandemic and during-pandemic PSQI (p=0.020) and IGDS9-SF (p=0.000) scores were significantly higher than the control group, no difference was observed for CDI scores (p=0.136). The presence of depression increased from 22.6% to 37.5% and the presence of problematic video game use decreased from 60.7% to 48.2% in the video game player group during the pandemic. However, these changes along with PSQI scores (5.98±3.40 vs 5.98±3.15), school success (p=0.765) and alcohol (p=0.412) and nicotine use (p=0.701) were not statistically significant (p>0.05). There was a significant increase in exercise during the pandemic (22.9% to 64.3%, p=0.006).
Our initial hypothesis was that we would observe an increase in IGDS9-SF and CDI scores of video gamers. However, although screen time increased, problematic video gaming did not. Our findings indicate that the interventions applied in our clinic after the initial study might have acted as a protective factor towards problematic video game use and the associated sedentary lifestyle.
© 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc.