Attention problems and more time spent gaming occur in both directions, study suggests
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Saturday, February 25, 2012
SATURDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Too much time spent playing video games may lead to impulsive behavior and attention problems in children, and vice versa, according to a new study.
In other words, people who spend more time playing video games subsequently have more attention problems, and "individuals who are more impulsive or have more attention problems subsequently spend more time playing video games," according to the report published in the current issue of the journal Psychology and Popular Media Culture.
For the study, attention problems were defined as difficulty engaging in or sustaining behavior to reach a goal, the authors explained in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
"This is an important finding because most research on attention problems has focused on biological and genetic factors rather than on environmental factors," lead study author Douglas Gentile, of Iowa State University, said in the news release.
In addition, the researchers found that the amount of time spent playing video games can have a greater effect on kids' health and behavior than video-game violence.
In conducting the study, researchers compiled information on the video game-playing habits of more than 3,000 children in Singapore ranging in age from 8 to 17 years over the course of three years. The children's attention to detail, ability to concentrate and their impulsiveness were also measured.
Previous studies have found that video gamers demonstrate an improved ability to rapidly and accurately recognize visual information, the study authors noted.
But, Gentile explained in the news release, "It is possible that electronic media use can impair attention necessary for concentration even as it enhances the ability to notice and process visual information."
The study authors said their findings could lead to the development of more effective strategies to help children with attention problems and impulsive behavior.
While the study uncovered an association between video-game playing and attention and behavior problems, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Feb. 23, 2012