Children that spend a lot of time playing video games are more likely to develop impulsivity and attention problems, according to new research.
And it’s not just violent games – all playing has the same effect, which appears regardless of a child’s gender, race or socioeconomic status.
“This is an important finding because most research on attention problems has focused on biological and genetic factors rather than on environmental factors,” says Douglas A Gentile of Iowa State University.
The researchers collected data from 3,034 children, aged between eight and 17, in Singapore. The children provided information about their video game playing habits by filling in three questionnaires, each a year apart.
They also completed psychological tests commonly used to measure attention and impulsiveness, with questions such as how often they make careless mistakes, or how easily they concentrate.
And the team discovered that the more children played games the less they were able to concentrate and the more impulsive they became – surprising, as previous studies have shown that playing video games can actually improve visual attention.
“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,” says Gentile.