The death of a 13-year-old Victorian boy has prompted warnings about the dangerous impact gaming can have on adolescents.
Oliver Cronin, from Loch in Victoria’s southeast, took his own life on October 25, 2019, after a year-long addiction to online video games like Fortnite and Minecraft.
The 13-year-old had grown up in a loving family and was popular at school but he developed a temper and behavioural issues in the months before his death.
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He began lashing out at his family and getting suspended from school over physical altercations with other students.
Victorian Coroner Paresa Spanos found Oliver’s behavioural changes were connected to his increasing use of online video games.
“Oliver was not diagnosed with a gaming disorder; however, his behaviours suggest that he met the WHO description of a gaming disorder,” Spanos said in her report.
According to the World Health Organisation, a gaming disorder is characterised by recurring distress or significant impairment in a person’s family, personal and social life.
Australia’s understanding around the prevention and diagnosis of gaming disorders was neither extensive nor rigorous, the coroner said.
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There were also no publicly funded services for treatment or prevention of gaming disorders in Australia.
A Digital Australia Report from 2020 found 67 per cent of Australians play video games, with about 22 per cent of players under the age of 18.
Males aged between 15 and 24 play 130 minutes a day on average, while females in that age group play for about 81 minutes a day.
A 2015 report found 3.5 per cent of boys aged 11 to 15 engage in “problematic” gaming, while that figure jumped to 4.4 per cent for boys aged 16 and 17.
There needs to be an increased commitment in Australia to research gaming disorders, the coroner said in her report.
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Spanos recommended the Office of the eSafety Commissioner raised awareness of the psychological risks of gaming in school-based digital health programs.
The eSafety Commissioner should also promote research that establishes the incidence and prevalence of harms to adolescents from online gaming.
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