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Swedish teen sectioned due to gaming 'addiction'

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Swedish teen sectioned due to gaming 'addiction'
10:01 CEST+02:00
A 16-year-old boy who was "addicted" to computer games has been involuntarily committed to institutional care after his parents were unable to get him to stop playing.

The boy was so focused on his game playing that he physically attacked his father whenever he asked his son to stop playing.

Police were also called to the family's home on several occasions, according to the court ruling authorizing the boy be committed to institutional care, the Metro newspaper reported.

The frustrated parents first contacted social services last year after their son's incessant computer game playing caused his health to deteriorate and resulted in a "non-functioning circadian rhythm".

After efforts by social workers proved fruitless, the parents turned to the courts in hopes they could get help for their son through Sweden's Care of Young Persons Act (Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga – LVU).

According to the statute, young people, generally between 12- and 21-years-old, can be taken out of their homes by social services and housed in facilities run by the National Board of Institutional Care.

Around 20,000 young people in Sweden are placed in special treatment homes each year, either due to family problems or because of their own behavioural problems, including criminal activity and addiction.

In its ruling, the court found that the 16-year-old's parents lacked the tools to deal with their son's computer gaming problems and thus ordered he be sent to a treatment home.

While the boy insists he is not addicted to computer games, a judge with the Malmö Administrative Court which ruled on the case disagreed.

"If playing computer games results in a person foregoing everything else, it's comparable to an addiction," Judge Ola Brändström told Metro.

Psychologist Owe Sandberg, one of Sweden's most prominent experts in gaming addiction, told the paper that he is contacted daily by distraught parents who are concerned about their children's gaming habits.

"The reward system is the same for World of Warcraft as it is for drugs," he told Metro, lamenting a lack of recognition of the problem by authorities in Sweden.

Most calls concern boys who are 16 or 17 and have dropped out of school as a result of their gaming.

"Some have this crazy notion that they can support themselves doing it, and they totally lose a grip on their lives," he told the paper.

Sandberg thinks computer gaming addiction should be a medical diagnosis of its own.

The case isn't the first time a Swedish teen has been sectioned for computer gaming addiction. In 2010, the Växjö Administrative Court ordered a 16-year-boy be placed in treatment after computer gaming caused him to skip school for several terms and he threatened to commit suicide.

TT/The Local/dl

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