A recent long-term study conducted by the University Hospital Hamburg and the insurance company DAK has revealed that six percent of children and young people in Germany, or around 680,000, are now addicted to video games and social media. This is double the number before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the numbers have continued to rise since 2019. The study found that these teens play, chat, and post for almost five hours a day. Andreas Storm, President of DAK, called the results “terrifying” and expressed concern that there has been no reprieve despite the hope that the trend would not continue.
According to psychologist Kai Müller, the consequences of this addiction can be observed on a daily basis. He is president of the Association Against Media Addiction and works with young people who neglect their school and family responsibilities, cannot turn off the screen, and react with anxiety and anger. In extreme cases, they barricade themselves in their rooms and forget to eat or go to the bathroom. Müller believes that the pandemic was very hard on young people as video games and social media provided comfort during a time of fear and doubt.
The World Health Organization recognized addiction to video games as an independent diagnosis in 2022. Müller notes that the three primary criteria for addiction are loss of control, prioritization of the video game over other aspects of life, and the inability to stop playing even when it causes problems. Boys are more likely to become addicted to games than girls, and the perception of gaming addiction tends to grow with age.
The Federal Ministry of Health has commissioned educational campaigns focused on the excessive use of social media. However, getting a specialized place to do therapy is becoming more difficult in Germany, with some patients waiting for three months between phone registration and their first appointment with a psychotherapist. Parents must continuously set limits on their children’s use of digital entertainment offers, especially for younger children.
In conclusion, addiction to video games and social media has become a concerning trend among young people in Germany. The earlier intervention occurs, the better the chances of successful treatment. Parents must take a proactive role in limiting their children’s exposure to excessive digital entertainment offers.