Nearly one in 10 children and teens who play video games show behavioral signs that may indicate addiction, a new study reports.

The study found 8.5% of those who played had at least six of 11 addictive symptoms, including skipping chores and homework for video games, poor test or homework performance and playing games to escape problems. The research, which is published in the May issue of the journal Psychological Science, is based on a 2007 Harris poll of 1,179 U.S. youngsters, the first nationally representative poll on the subject.

Exhibiting six of 11 symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of addiction, such as pathological gambling. Iowa State University researcher Douglas Gentile adopted the addiction criteria for gambling because there is no current medical diagnosis of video-game addiction.

"This study shows there are a substantial number of kids ... taking damage to multiple areas of their life," Gentile says.

On average, the number of symptoms per person was small: boys, typically more than two, girls, less than two. But more boys exhibited at least six symptoms - 12%, vs. 3% of girls. Other symptoms included excessive thinking about games and planning the next opportunity, trying to play less and failing, restlessness or irritability when trying to reduce or stop playing, lying about play time, stealing a game or stealing money to buy a game.

The survey does not end the debate over whether gaming can be addictive in the way gambling or substances can be, Gentile says. Nor does it "tell us who's most at risk (or) how long it lasts. Is it something that only lasts for a couple months when the game system is new, then the kids learn to get it back into balance?"

Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health Science University, called the study "valuable" to the American Psychiatric Association's decision on whether compulsive computer and Internet use should be considered a mental disorder.

Block, an APA adviser, warns that the study has weaknesses. The research should be replicated because it is supported by the National Institute for Media and the Family, which he likens to a lobbying group. And the survey could have found higher game use because it was collected in January as opposed to summer. It also classifies 8.5% as addicted without a physician interview: "The people they are claiming have a problem, it's not entirely clear that they do have a problem."