In 2006, the American Medical Association decided to do its part to contribute to the body of knowledge associated with “gaming addiction,” violence and “Internet addiction.” The report — which doesn’t rise to any traditional academic standard for peer-reviewed research, such as a formal literature review — was just published (AMA Report on Internet and Video Game Addiction (PDF)).
How are the report’s findings when it comes to things like Internet addiction and video game addiction?
Well, let’s get to the juicy “Internet addiction” first.
The history of “Internet adddiction” is that it was a term that was coined in 1996 in a poster at the annual American Psychological Association convention. The term came from a small study that simply changed the word “gambling” in the criteria of “pathological gambling” to “Internet use” and found, not surprising, that a self-selected sample of people identified with the criteria. (The researcher could’ve easily done the same thing with the words, “shopping,” “watching TV,” or “eating chocolate,” and found similar results.)
What does the report say about this “disorder”?
This term seems to have been coined in the 1990s when researchers were attempting to describe a constellation of behaviors observed in persons using the Internet to such an extent that it began to cause other aspects of their lives to become dysfunctional. The DSM-IV disorder most similar to the pattern of behaviors observed with overuse of video games is pathological gambling.
The AMA report puts the chicken before the egg — the label came specifically from the pathological gambling criteria, so I sure hope the two criteria look very similar. But unlike the criteria for pathological gambling, which were empirically derived, the criteria for “Internet addiction” were simply copied from the existing pathological gambling criteria.
If the AMA report is sloppy in understanding the etiology of this “disorder,” I can’t help but wonder where else they were sloppy in this report.
The report also leaves out any mention of studies critical of “Internet addiction.” Why is that? Shouldn’t a report of this nature try to be balanced in its efforts and findings?