DAK study: Media addiction among children and young people is increasing

Status: 03/14/2023 12:17 p.m

Gaming, streaming, social media: According to a study by the health insurance company DAK, more and more children and young people are addicted to the media. Boys are affected more often than girls. This is also a consequence of the pandemic, according to the DAK.

Media addiction among children and young people has increased significantly during the corona pandemic. This is shown by the results of a study by the statutory health insurance company DAK. More than six percent of minors are now addicted to computer games and social media. More than 600,000 girls and boys are affected.

According to the study, around 2.2 million children and young people use gaming, social media or streaming with problems. That is, they are at risk of addiction or already dependent. According to the study, the number of children and young people addicted to computer games rose from 2.7 percent in 2019 to 6.3 percent in June 2022. In social media, media addiction doubled from 3.2 to 6.7 percent.

The DAK cites restrictions during the corona pandemic as one cause. These would have led to increased media consumption – as compensation for loneliness and stress.

Social media puts older children at risk

According to the researchers, the duration of use on workdays is currently around a third longer than before the Corona period. The average for computer games is about two hours on the workday and three hours on the weekend. Social media is used for almost three hours a day – almost four hours at the weekend. According to the information, the maximum increase in usage was in the weeks of the first corona lockdown in April 2020.

Overall, boys are more likely to be at risk of addiction or are already addicted than girls – especially when it comes to gaming. Two out of three computer game addicts are boys. In social networks, addictive behavior is roughly equally distributed between girls and boys. Older children and adolescents are more at risk of addictive behavior than younger ones, the study said.

According to the criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO), a media addict is someone who has lost control of their usage behavior over a period of one year, withdraws from other areas of life and continues their behavior even if there are negative consequences such as health impairments.

Thinking about your own behavior

“If we don’t act quickly now, children and young people will always slip into media addiction and the negative trend can no longer be stopped. This would destroy families and threaten the future of many young people,” warns the CEO of DAK, Andreas Storm. He calls for an expansion of prevention and support services for those affected. It is also important “that children and young people learn to assess the risks of using digital media and to reflect on their usage behavior”.

The experts recommend setting up clear rules that could also be formulated in a “media usage contract”. Showing interest and offering alternatives as to what children and young people could do with their free time is important help. To do this, however, parents would have to keep an eye on their own media behavior, obtain information and recognize early on when children are slipping into problematic areas of media consumption.

Age group between ten and 17

The study was created by the market research institute Forsa together with the DAK and the German Center for Addiction Questions in Children and Adolescents at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf. According to the information, 1,200 families with children between the ages of ten and 17 were surveyed five times – between September 2019 and July 2022.

A first study was already published in 2020. Even then, the authors spoke of some “alarming results”.

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