A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Prof. Zsolt Demetrovics about screen addiction

Interview with Zsolt Demetrovics, Professor of psychology at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary.

Gaming is the most problematic internet related activity today.

What is the better predictor of PUI, psychiatric symptoms or time spent online?

Demetrovics ZsolZsolt Demetrovics: Time spent online is not the best predictor of internet related problems. There is an association, of course, however, it seems that the motives for spending time on the internet, which are also linked to different psychological problems, are better predictors. Such motives as escapism (i.e., to forget about daily hassles and real-life problems), and coping (gaming in order to feel better, improve mood, or reduce negative feelings) are stronger predictors, for example, than recreation (playing just for fun) or skills development. A combination of existing psychological problems increases the escapist and coping behaviour, thereby also increasing their utility as predictors.

Why is only internet gaming currently considered as an actual psychiatry disorder?

Zsolt Demetrovics: It is not yet officially. DSM had not included IGD only into Section III (phenomena that need further research). However, WHO has put Gaming Disorder in ICD-11 but that still needs to be confirmed. At this point we see that gaming is the most problematic internet related activity. Social networks use also brings more and more attention, however less data is available yet.

How much influence does internet itself and its features which recognizes our preference have on “feeding” the addiction?

Zsolt Demetrovics: Those, who design the games try to keep us active on the internet. Games are designed in a way that you keep on gaming.

Is there any consensus yet about the prevention and therapy programs?

Zsolt Demetrovics: Not much is known yet. However, it seems that some cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches can be effective and more and more programs are under development. Having a consensual diagnostic criteria in the ICD-11 can again contribute very positively to this development.

How well are measurement models of problematic Internet use developed?

Zsolt Demetrovics: There are several measures available to assess problematic internet use. Some of these are well established and have convincing psychometric properties. Also, there are more specific tools to assess one aspect of problematic internet use, e.g., Gaming, or Social Networking. To assess (Internet) Gaming Disorder, many tools have been developed. Some of these before the DSM criteria was available, others are already based on the DSM.  In a very recent study we have just confirmed a tool (called Ten-Item Internet Gaming Disorder Test – IGDT-10) in seven languages over 7000 people. And, again, I must emphasize that the ICD-11 diagnosis would help a lot to make further developments toward a tool that is based on an official diagnostic criteria.

Bio-express : Prof. Zsolt Demetrovics is Dean of the Faculty of Education and Psychology, Director of the Institute of Psychology and Head of the Department of Clinical Psychology & Addiction at the Eötwös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary; As a clinical psychologist specialised in addiction, Demetrovicz is involved in numerous research projects looking at problematic internet use, and consequently participates in the work of the new European Problematic Use of the Internet Network (EU PUI).  Many different forms of problematic online behaviour are included within the PUI term: gaming; video streaming; viewing pornography; shopping; social media use.

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