Mom claims video game companies are intentionally addicting kids

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Mom claims video game companies are intentionally addicting kids

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Mom claims video game companies are intentionally addicting kids
An Arkansas mother has filed a lawsuit against several video game manufacturers.

By GMA Team via logo
November 30, 2023, 9:54 AM

An Arkansas mother is taking on the video game industry, filing a major lawsuit that accuses manufacturers of intentionally designing games to be as addictive as possible.

"I spent a lot of nights crying, thinking that I was a bad parent because of it. If there's any other parent dealing with this, I want them to know they're not alone," Elizabeth Jones told "Good Morning America."

Jones' son, 21-year-old Preston Johnson, started playing video games at age 12. According to Jones, by age 16, he had dropped out of high school "due to his desire to stay home and play video games."

The lawsuit, which lists both Jones and her son as plaintiffs, claims that the video games Preston plays, including Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox, are "specifically developed and designed to cause the addiction experienced by him and other users."

"As a result of gaming addiction, [he's] experienced severe emotional distress … loss of friends, inability to limit game playing time … depression … withdrawal symptoms such as rage, [and] anger," Jones further claims in the lawsuit.

Jones told "GMA," "At one point, I took away the modem altogether and he went downstairs and screamed so loud, the neighbors called Child Protective Services because they thought I was abusing him."

Tina Bullock, Jones' attorney, said the goal of Jones' lawsuit is "to make the video game industry defendants accountable for what they've done to the youth in our country."

Internet gaming disorder, or IGD, is included in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an addictive condition. The World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases also lists 'gaming disorder' as an addictive behavior. Experts say the diagnosis depends on the level of impairment or distress gaming causes.

"Someone could be playing video games a lot but it might not impair their functioning or cause an impact on their relationships," Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, explained to "GMA." "Whereas someone else might be playing video games a lot and they could really cause financial ruin [and] are really hurting their relationships."

While experts say more research is needed, some psychologists say issues with gaming may not be a unique disorder, but rather a symptom of another condition, like depression or anxiety.

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group representing the video game industry, told ABC News in a statement that "the industry … invests in creating easy-to-use tools for players, parents and caregivers to manage numerous aspects of gameplay."

"Claims that say otherwise are not rooted in fact and ignore the reality that billions of people … enjoy playing video games as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle," the association added.

For her part, Jones said video games have forever negatively altered her son's life, and their family.

"When he started playing these games, I had no idea that these multimillion-dollar gaming platforms and games were going to create an addict out of my child. I never knew it would destroy our family, our relationship," Jones said.

"Preston has not completed high school. He's not able to work a 40-hour workweek. He doesn't interact with family. He doesn't have friends. He's a bit of a recluse and the family cannot get him to engage with them," Bullock added.

Jones is suing for monetary damages to help cover her son's medical care.

If you believe you or someone you know may have a gaming disorder, you're encouraged to contact a mental health professional. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration offers 24-hour assistance and referrals at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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