Excessive computer and video game playing among children is being critically discussed from a pedagogic and public health point of view. To date, no reliable data for this phenomenon in Germany exists. In the present study, the excessive usage of computer and video games is seen as a rewarding behavior which can, due to learning mechanisms, become a prominent and inadequate strategy for children to cope with negative emotions like frustration, uneasiness and fears. In the survey, 323 children ranging in age from 11 to 14 years were asked about their video game playing behavior. Criteria for excessive computer and video game playing were developed in accordance with the criteria for dependency and pathological gambling (DSM-IV, ICD-10). Data show that 9.3% (N = 30) of the children fulfill all criteria for excessive computer and video game playing. Furthermore, these children differ from their class mates with respect to watching television, communication patterns, the ability to concentrate in school lectures and the preferred strategies coping with negative emotions. In accordance with findings in studies about substance-related addiction, data suggest that excessive computer and video game players use their excessive rewarding behavior specifically as an inadequate stress coping strategy.
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