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Is your child a digital addict? Take this DASC test to find out

Here’s the new Digital Addiction Scale for Children (“DASC”) which has just been published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

The DASC is a simple test made up of 25 questions based on the emerging clinical criteria used to diagnose addictive behavioural disorders.

The child simply answers by saying how often each statement applies to them (1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, and 5 = always). Sum the scores, and the higher the score, the more “addicted” your child may be to their digital devices (max score 125).

Digital Addiction Scale for Children (“DASC”)

Answer scale 1-5 (score 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, and 5 = always).

  1. When I am not at school, I spend a lot of time using my device 
  2. I feel the need to spend more time using my device
  3. I feel upset when I am not able to use my device
  4. I lie to my parents about the amount of time I spend using my device 
  5. Using my device helps me to forget my problems 
  6. I do not spend time with my family members because I prefer using my device 
  7. I have spent more and more time on my device 
  8. I feel upset when I am asked to stop using my device 
  9. My parents try to stop or limit me using my device, but they fail 
  10. I am sleeping less because I am using my device
  11. When I do not have my device, I think about what I do on it (video games, social media, and texting, etc.) 
  12. I feel frustrated when I cannot use my device
  13. I have problems with my parents about the amount of time I spend using my device
  14. Using my device is the most important thing in my life 
  15. Using my device is more enjoyable than doing other things 
  16. I lie to my parents about what I do on my device 
  17. I am not able to control using my device
  18. I have lost interest in hobbies or other activities because I prefer using my device 
  19. When I stop using my device, it is not long before I start using it again
  20. I check my device when I am doing homework or other important things 
  21. I feel frustrated when I am asked to stop using my device 
  22. I argue with my parents when they ask me to stop using my device 
  23. I spend too much money on things for my device
  24. Using my device makes me feel better when I feel bad 
  25. I continue using my device despite the fact that my grades at school are getting lower and lower 

Sum answer scores for a total score out of 125; the higher the score, the higher the level of addiction as measured by the test.

The new DASC test has been developed and validated by Nazir Hawi and Maya Samaha from Notre Dame University–Louaize in Lebanon and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent Univesity in the UK. The DASC is intended primarily for children aged 9-12 and the authors argue it is important because digital addiction in children has been associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress, anxiety, depression, narcissism, low self-esteem and poor academic performance.

Addicted? Really?

It’s important to emphasise that the idea that digital devices can be “addictive” remains contested.

For example, addictive disorders are almost always considered to be substance-related (e.g. opioids, sedatives, alcohol, tobacco…), at least from a psychiatric perspective. So if you take a look at the latest ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (the clinician’s standard reference manual) known as “DSM-5“, you’ll see that the only “Non-Substance-Related Disorder” is “Gambling Disorder”. However there is a list of “Conditions for Further Study” that require more evidence before being included – and “Internet Gaming Disorder” is one such contender.

Similarly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recognize digital device addiction as a condition in its most recent International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). However, it does reference “gaming disorder” as an addictive disorder.

In short, the idea of digital device addiction is new, controversial and more data is probably needed before we can say that digital devices addiction is more than a metaphor.

Nevertheless, the new DASC test is interesting because it uses emerging criteria for diagnosing behavioural addiction.

  • Preoccupation – behaviour becomes the most important activity in a person’s life, dominating thoughts and behaviour (Q1, Q11)
  • Mood modification – mood and subjective feelings change as a result of engaging in the activity (Q5, Q15, Q24)
  • Tolerance – increasing amounts of activity are required to achieve former effects (Q2, Q7)
  • Withdrawal Problems – reduced or discontinued activity is associated with unpleasant feeling and/or physical effects (Q3, Q8, Q12, Q21)
  • Conflict – increased conflicts between the person and those around them (interpersonal conflict) or from within the individual themselves (intrapsychic conflict) related to the activity (Q9, Q22)
  • Relapse – tendency for repeated reversions to earlier patterns of the activity to recur (Q17, Q19)
  • Problems – life necessities that could become uncontrollable due to digital addiction such as sleep, discord with parents, money management, and academic achievement (Q10, Q13, Q23, Q25)
  • Deception – lying to parents (carers) about the amount of time and what they do on their DDs. (Q4, Q16)
  • Displacement – parents (carers) feeling disconnected from their children, which results in the compromising of the family unit (Q6, Q18, Q20)

So whether or not you wish to use the ‘A’ word to describe your child’s relationship with digital devices, these nine DASC criteria may help you understand the relationship beyond the controversial label.

Hawi, N. S., Samaha, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2019). The digital addiction scale for children: Development and validationCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.