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Video games linked to impulsivity

28th February 2012

Playing video games seems to cause neurological changes to take place in children, according to a recent US study on children from Singapore.


The researchers found that, while previous studies had made light of positive neurological changes, for example, the fact that video games helped children rapidly recognise visual information, playing video games also seemed to lower children's tolerance for sustained attention.

The researchers said that having a shorter attention span may mean problems with impulsive behaviour as children grow into adolescents, and that people who had problems with impulsive behaviour also seemed to gravitate toward video games.

By means of questionnaires, the scientists measured attention to detail, ability to follow through with sustained behaviour in order to accomplish a set task, and ability to concentrate, in about 3,000 children.

For the study, attention problems were defined as difficulty engaging in or sustaining behaviour to reach a goal, the authors explained in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

Douglas Gentile, a researcher at Iowa State University who runs a lab called the Media Research Lab, said that the finding was an important addition to the existing literature, most of which tended to focus on the role of genetic inheritance in shaping children's attention span.

He said that when teachers or school counsellors contacted parents and reported that their child was having problems paying attention, parents should consider limiting screen time before medicating their children.

For the study, the researchers recruited 3,034 child study subjects, and sent out questionnaires at intervals of four months.

All the study subjects were older than eight and younger than 18, and the researchers followed them for three years.

The data derived from the questionnaires was filtered in an attempt to eliminate sex, age, race, and socioeconomic bias.

Statistically speaking, the children who played the most video games were also those who had the most difficulty concentrating.

Total time spent playing video games seemed to be the biggest factor in differentiating one child from another.

Gentile said he thought of the sound and visual effects used to animate video games as hooks for attention.

Since children who had attention difficulties also seemed to like to play video games, the researchers hypothesised that there may be a 'bidirectional causality' linking video games and attention problems.

However, since the study is based on statistics, it merely points the way for further studies, which may attempt to derive the same result.

If the statistical link proves valid, scientists may eventually discover the biological mechanism linking video-game playing to attention difficulties in children.

Gentile said he had spoken to many parents who were worried that their children had ADHD, and that most children in the US currently averaged several hours of screen time per day.

He said that such parents would notice that the only things their children could focus on for a few hours at a time were video games.


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Brand Camp

Friday 2nd March 2012 @ 20:18

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