Since the introduction of gaming addiction into the World Health Organisation's list of disorders, the discussion around addiction has cropped up more in mainstream media. This week, one professor has put forward a fairly strong view: that technology addiction is a myth.
Andrew Przybylski is a director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, an associate professor and a experimental psychologist who applies psychological models of motivation and health to learn how people operate in virtual spaces like the internet. He's one of the academics behind a paper that analysed the clinical relevance of internet gaming disorder, which warned that formal adoption of internet gaming disorder "would vie for limited therapeutic resources".
Professor Przybylski recently featured in a short video for BBC Ideas, an offshoot of the British national broadcaster that produces short form videos designed to offer different perspectives. In the latest film, Professor Przybylski argues that technology addiction and addiction to video games is a myth, and the casual adoption of the word addiction has trivialised more serious addictions to narcotics, alcohol and other drugs.
"What we really mean is the activity is fun," Professor Przybylski said. "We're not really sure if technology might cause problems in people's lives, or if those who already have problems in their lives gravitate to using technology in less healthy ways."
The Oxford Internet Institute associate professor added that a historical view on addiction had been left out from a lot of the debate, noting that people criticised Dungeons & Dragons in the '80s, worrying that tabletop players would engage in Satanic rituals and lose connection with the real world.
Is technology addiction a myth? pic.twitter.com/idCzrivXkN
— BBC Ideas???? (@bbcideas) July 15, 2019
The BBC Ideas film was released earlier this week, and conveniently dovetails with research published today by the University of Sydney into the effect of video games on teenagers. A survey of 250 adults between the age of 18 and 25 found that video games played in moderation — less than three hours a day — was unlikely to have "any impact on depression levels, loneliness, resilience or overall quality of life". The study noted that those who played "luck rather than skill based games" were more likely to become regular gamblers later on. Kotaku Australia has contacted the researchers behind that study for comment.