Do video games and impulsivity go hand-in-hand?

Can too much time playing video games lead to impulsive behavior and attention problems in kids?

A new study published in the journal Psychology and Popular Media Culture suggests there is a connection between video games and impulsive behavior (or vice versa), but not necessarily a cause and effect relationship.

From HealthDay News:

“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 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.”

The article doesn’t say how many hours a day or week the kids were playing. I will continue to search for that information.

What do you think? Do you think there could be a relationship between the two? Have you ever noticed this? Does this article make you want to limit video game play even more?

75 comments Add your comment

[...] Do video games and impulsivity go hand-in-hand?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Can too much time playing video games lead to impulsive behavior and attention problems in kids? A new study published in the journal Psychology and Popular Media Culture suggests there is a connection between video games and impulsive behavior (or …Video games, TV can create vicious cycle in impulsive childrenThe VergeVideo games, impulsivity seem to go hand-in-handKTTCHow video games affect attention spansMercatorNet (blog)Health24.com -TopNews United Statesall 13 news articles » [...]

catlady

February 28th, 2012
6:57 am

As a teacher, I agree that there is frequently a link between the two. Cause and effect? Maybe, but I’d bet I could point out the kids who have played the most video games in the classrooms I work in. They are drawn to it, or they become more impulsive/ADD-acting because of exposure, I don’t know.

When my son was about 10, he wanted to play video games a lot (ie, every day, like an alcoholic). I took the video game set out of the house, and had the cable turned off for several years. There is so much more to life for a child than sitting in front of a flickering tube of any kind!

Soccer Milf II

February 28th, 2012
7:14 am

My son likes to play on line video, or I think thats what he is doing in his room on the computer. I know it makes his hands dry as he goes through a lot of lotion.

Voice of Reason

February 28th, 2012
7:15 am

No, No, and No! But by all means keep looking for excuses as to why little Timmy can’t concentrate on schoolwork he is bored with.

Gwinnett Mom

February 28th, 2012
7:19 am

My son plays the Nascar video game and is pretty good. He wants to get a job as a nascar driver because of his interest in the video game. I dont see anything wrong with video games cuz my son can make a career from his experience plaing video games.

Does anyone no how he can apply to a nascar team for a drivers job?

Voice of Reason

February 28th, 2012
7:28 am

Plus the grand prize for winning Major League Gaming (YES IT EXISTS) championships has exceeded the $1MM mark.

Video gaming has become a lucrative sport for those with talent just like any other professional sport on this planet.

I’m making sure I get this out there before all the video game hating helicopter parents get their $.02 in.

Voice of Reason

February 28th, 2012
7:48 am

Also did this study take into account the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360 Kinect games that are designed to utilize the full range of motion of the player? You know those games where you are not just sitting on the couch with a control pad in your hand but you are actually moving around and getting exercise?

My wife and I work out every single night with the Xbox Kinect game Your Shape Fitness Evolved and it has helped me drop over 30 lbs.

Yes I am passionate about video games. They have gotten a bad reputation and whenever a study like this comes out that is baseless and lacks substance I find it extremely amusing how easy it is to poke holes in their “findings.”

homeschooler

February 28th, 2012
7:57 am

I don’t know which of the above two posts (Gwinnett Mom and Voice of Reason) are more ridiculous. I’m really hoping GM is being sarcastic. And I’ve seen the kinds of kids (and god forbid…adults) involved in the Major League Gaming. How many are still living with their parents?
I have much more to say but will have to catch up later after more comments.

RJ

February 28th, 2012
8:02 am

When my son was 5 he started playing his sisters playstation game. Within a few weeks, he was addicted at only 5 years old. He wanted to play every morning before school and when he came home from school. I made the rule that he cannot play it Monday-Thursday. He acted like a crack addict! He wanted to negotiate when he could play and acted as if it was the end of the world.

There may be a connection, I don’t know. Having a child with ADHD, I’m glad I did take him off the games so much. However, he’s still his overactive self without the games.

Figment

February 28th, 2012
8:11 am

This BS again….. in moderation there is nothing wrong with video games. Letting a child play all day, everyday… that’s a problem. Even I shouldn’t do that, and I don’t. Playing video games for a hour isn’t going to hurt a kid. I grew up with video games, I played them a lot. Still play when I can.

Be a parent and actually parent your children, a TV is not a babysitter. But it can be a form of entertainment when used in moderation.

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
8:16 am

We have a Wii, but that’s it. It’s in our den/basement, and we all usually play it together. We don’t have any violent games and we use it mostly for exercise. However, we spend A LOT of time outside. We are a very outdooorsy family. 75% of the time you will find us out in the back yard. Or hiking. Oh we love to hike the Georgia Mountains. This year we really want to go to The Hike Inn. Not sure if the youngest could handle a 5 mile hike, but we’ll see……..

Lori

February 28th, 2012
8:35 am

I don’t really think there is a cause/effect relationship at all, but I do wonder if there is some connection. Think about it this way…Video games are fast, they move fast, it’s an adventure, it’s action, and everything changes and happens so rapidly. Life isn’t like that. Life is slow, nothing comes at you that fast. Kids with attention problems get bored easily, but with video games they don’t have time to get bored, they are too busy with the non-stop action. I think that maybe kids with short attention spans are just attracted to video games.

Jennifer

February 28th, 2012
8:36 am

I think everyone is kind of missing the point. It’s contradicting the notion that video games cause behavior and attention problems. It’s stating that they think kids with these pre-existing problems are more drawn to video games.

usually lurking

February 28th, 2012
9:02 am

@Augusta – sort of off topic – Hike Inn is great! How old is your youngest? I think our youngest was 7 or so when we hiked it the first time, he did fine. The 5-mile trail is easy to moderate.

Voice of Reason

February 28th, 2012
9:08 am

@Lori

I agree, people are generally attracted to things that keep their minds busy. Some peoples minds are more active than others. The point is that there is nothing wrong with that, it’s normal as long as it is in moderation there should be no problem.

Roberta Higginbotham

February 28th, 2012
9:13 am

God love the people who poo-poo scientific studies. Unfortunately their kids grow up to be just as ignorant as they are.

There are no benefits for either children or adults by playing most video games.

Voice of Reason

February 28th, 2012
9:23 am

@Roberta

Not sure if serious….

Techmom

February 28th, 2012
9:28 am

My son is ADD but was never into video games. He couldn’t sit still long enough to play for more than 5 minutes. He’s now 16 and literally just sold his PS3 on Craigslist b/c he so rarely plays it.

I want to do the Hike Inn as well! We’ve been hiking with my son’s Scout troop lately but I think that would a fun place to put on our list as a family.

KJ

February 28th, 2012
10:16 am

“There are no benefits for either children or adults by playing most video games.”

Um, there are no benefits to a lot of leisure activities. I played video games growing up because that’s what I liked to do. If you object, well, sucks to be you.

My affinity for video games/computers at a young age likely influenced my eventual career choice as an IT professional, where I’m compensated somewhere around the 90th percentile. I’d say it worked out pretty well.

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
11:06 am

Well good for you KJ.

My NON affinity for video games at a young age DEFINATELY influenced my eventaul career choice, and I too am compensated HIGHLY. And I get to work from home!!

KJ

February 28th, 2012
11:57 am

And yet, you don’t see me looking down my nose at your choice of leisure activities. I hope you learned something today. If not, allow me to at least apprise you of the correct spellings of “definitely” and “eventual”.

You’re welcome.

Lori

February 28th, 2012
11:57 am

@Techmom, that is interesting. My sister has an ADD adult son and a ADHD grade school son. Video games seem to be the only thing that either of them can do for a long period of time. The ADD adult struggles with a wondering mind in college, but can play video games for hours. The ADHD little boy can’t sit still to save his life, doesn’t watch TV at all, but can play on his DS all day if you’d let him. I guess every kid is different.

I agree with @Voice of Reason. I don’t think there is anything wrong with games. But with everything, moderation is key. Kids should be outside playing with their friends sometimes too!

Wayne

February 28th, 2012
12:11 pm

@Lori: my two boys are like your sister’s kids. They could, if you let them, play on their games all day. The youngest son (5) can jump, spin, be upside-down, everywhich way, AND loose, and play on the Wii. Both are ADD/ADHD. We do have to limit it though – they could be on it ’til the cows come home. I dislike them (the games) greatly.

I too am in the IT field, and couldn’t care less about video games. Never quite got into it. To show you how old I am, Descent was about the only game that I sorta enjoyed. I have several friends that are very much into them and I admire how they can play’em.

homeschooler

February 28th, 2012
12:18 pm

I submitted a comment earlier but I’m kind of glad it got lost. It wasn’t very nice.

Anyway.. I have spent my life working with children. From babysitting to working in daycare/Montessori to working in child protective services. Not to mention being involved in homeschooling. I believe, 100 percent that there is a cause and effect between ANY screen time and short attention spans. This is proven time and time again in regards to studies about TV watching and now with studies about video games. I believe the younger a child starts the more damage it does to the brain. What Lori said is true. TV and video games stimulate the brain constantly. No wonder a child who spends a great deal of time playing and watching has a difficult time being stimulated by books or by playing a board game.

Like anything else, I think moderation is the key. I have friends who are very disciplined about their children’s “screen time”. These kids spend the majority of their time in thought provoking and physical activities and occasionally play video games. They are calm, interesting and fun to be around. I have one friend whose two boys have never owned any sort of video game. Their computer time is very limited and they watch educational videos and watch an entertaining movie or show about 2 hrs per week. Those kids are AMAZING. They are never, ever bored. They play and build and read and discover constantly. You just can’t look at them and think that their behaviors and creativity have nothing to do with their lack of artificial stimulation. Still they are obsessed with playing games at other’s houses, so, time will tell if they go off the deep end one day from their mom’s extreme views on this subject. I really don’t think so, though.

Personally, I kept mine away from video games until he was 10. We then got a Wii and he plays it occasionally. He has always played computer games off and on and would always get more and more addicted to them the more he played so I had to limit that. I liked when he had a Webkinz addiction, though. Seemed a little more slow paced with some need for creative thinking. I can always tell if mine have had too much time on the TV or games. They get whiney and a case of the “I don’t know what to do”’s.

I have seen a very large number of early 20’s men who can not seem to function. They don’t work, live with their parents and they ALL seem to be into video games. Some have even been put on disability for ADD and other disorders. Do video games have something to do with this? I really don’t know but I have to wonder.
I’ve also seen the kinds of boys and men involved in “Major League Gaming”. What a joke! Sorry. I will never believe this is a talent. It is simply something you get better at the more you do it. Those really good at it just spend more time playing. Next we will have parents pushing their kids to play so they can can make the big bucks like parents dream of their kids being big sports stars.
Which brings me to Gwinnett Mom. I read your post three times trying to decide if you are being sarcastic or if you are serious. Assuming you are serious. 1) Do you really think there is an actual correlation between driving a race car and playing a game? Your child would better learn by racing bicycles or motorcycles. 2) People who race NASCAR got there by spending ungodly amounts of money and by knowing just the right people. I happen to know someone who helped train one of the NASCAR drivers. Many have started in some sort of midget car racing which takes enormous amounts of time and money. I would encourage a child to be a NASCAR driver the same way I would one who wanted to be a movie star. “better have a back-up plan”

JATL

February 28th, 2012
12:27 pm

Maybe we can all have a “meet up” on the Hike Inn trail! It’s going to be a few years for us though -the three year old can do 2 miles easily, but after that he wants to be carried.

I think video games are fine in moderation -like most things. I do not want my boys to sit in front of them constantly without playing outside or reading or playing with their toys, but it’s okay with me if the oldest (youngest likes to “pretend” to play them) wants to choose video games over cartoons for an hour of screen time. Unless he has a great report from school each day, he’s not allowed either one. Plus, at his age, the ones he plays are all on educational sites. We do some family dance stuff and Star Wars games on XBox and Wii, but that’s actually somewhat active (and great on a rainy day). People can nay-say video games all they want, but a little bit won’t hurt anyone! I love to read, but sitting on your butt reading all day every day isn’t good for you either. Moderation, people!

Lori

February 28th, 2012
12:36 pm

@Homeschooler – Kids can be “great kids” and still be a bit obsessive about their screen time. My sister’s kids may play a lot, but they are still fantastic kids. All 3 of her kids have extremely high IQ’s, the oldest is in college studying Chemistry but won the State Science Fair more than once in school, the middle one in high school just placed 1st at Odyssey of the Mind and is about to become an Eagle Scout, and the youngest is 3 grade levels ahead of his pears in both reading and match at school, and is talented at Baseball. All 3 of them play video games as much as their schedules allow, but they are all wonderful in many ways. I don’t think that screen time and great kids are mutually exclusive.

Bobbie

February 28th, 2012
12:37 pm

I don’t buy ADD or ADHD. I’m convinced it is a made up condition. Little Johnny is bored as hell at school because he’s NOT challenged, and his mind wanders. The schools cater to the dumb kids and cannot challenge the smart kids. One education for all is NOT the answer.

They’ve taken recess out of the schools, and he is forced to sit at a desk for 6 hours, he has no where to burn off that energy. So, make him sit in a classroom, bored out of his mind because there’s no challenge in school work, he gets fidigety and Mommy runs and puts him on medicine, because the teacher says he can’t sit still.

I refuse to acknowlege this “condition”. It’s made up by the school administrators.

I challenge my kids on a daily basis, because the schools don’t. I do not allow video games to be played, nor do we have any “gaming systems” in our home. Go outside. Take the dog for a walk, go start a game of kick ball, gather up some kids and get outside and P L A Y. Trust me, your kid won’t get snatched by the local peophile.

FCM

February 28th, 2012
12:47 pm

Since Sesame Street debuted there has been at least a correlation between video and what came to be known as ADD. (No I am not blaming Big Bird because Johnny doesn’t sit still in class. I might blame Elmo though!).

What I would really like to know is why we keep doing studies (and more importantly allowing gov’t to fund them) to state the same thing over and over without providing a viable solution. Obviously kicking the kid off the various electronic feeds will help obesity and perhaps some attention span issues.

I say maybe on the ADHD b/c I have a very severe ADHD child who abhors tv and is on limited Nitendo/Wii time. She loves playing outside or doing a craft or other things….and she is still severe ADHD…but she sleeps well at night.

:)

homeschooler

February 28th, 2012
12:51 pm

@ Bobbie..I agree with you on everything you said. But do you think that the “symptoms” that characterized ADD and ADHD are more prevalent in children who do spend so much time in front of the TV and playing video games? I’m of the opinion that ADD and ADHD comes more from nurture and less from nature.
@ Lori. I agree. But it does sound like your sister’s kids have a lot more in their lives than just video games. My nephew was a video game junkie and a nice kid. He’s still a nice adult but not very functional. Had he been given other opportunities (ie..boyscouts etc..) maybe he could have developed some skills, self esteem and other things to help him be successful. All I was saying was that my friends who allow video games in moderation have children who would never be classified as ADD or ADHD despite the fact that they do play video games. Those who play excessively might be nice kids but often have difficulty remaining calm and behaving making them a little more difficult to be around.

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
12:53 pm

I have AADD. Adult Attention Deficiet Disorder (tongue in cheek). With 4 kids, I am constantly being pulled in 4-5 different directions..LOL…No wonder I can’t remember my PIN at the ATM..or what I had for lunch yesterday….LOL

FCM

February 28th, 2012
12:57 pm

@ Augusta…. u got to have lunch yesterday? Sometimes I don’t.

one thing to add….my other child is ADD and much less severe than her younger sister. She would live in electronic world if I let her. However a friend of mine with a ADD son said that the images on the screen actually “calm” the sensory sector of the brain that ADD is in. However in my house the ADD child is the calm child.

homeschooler

February 28th, 2012
1:31 pm

If anyone has AADD it’s me. My husband has another name for it CRS (can’t remember $hit). Keeping up with house, schooling, working, kids. Yes…PLEASE give me some Adderall!

FCM

February 28th, 2012
1:42 pm

i would happily take the adderall for the weight loss benefits. unfortunately they said i cannot do that.

homeschooler

February 28th, 2012
1:45 pm

LOL FCM … I almost said something about that too. :-)

[...] to the findings of a recent study. But, the researcher behind that study tells Vox Games, …Do video games and impulsivity go hand-in-hand?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Video games, impulsivity seem to go hand-in-handKTTCHow video [...]

Lori

February 28th, 2012
2:27 pm

@Bobbie, have you ever met a kid who was ADHD? I don’t just mean kids who can’t pay attention in class, I mean a kid with some serious issues? If not, then don’t judge. My sister’s son can’t figure out if he packed his toothbrush in his backpack even if he is staring at the bag. He will sift through his stuff, toss it on the floor and by the time he gets everything out of the bag he’s forgotten what he was looking for. Sometimes when you speak to him, its like he’s an empty body staring back at you, with no expression of understanding on his face. It’s not just school and sitting still that is affected by ADHD, but simple, everyday tasks as well. I was like you, not really believing it was a real condition until I saw a very bad case first hand.

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
2:40 pm

Lori – you just described a TEENAGER!!!!

Wayne

February 28th, 2012
2:53 pm

[sigh] This argument… again?

jmb

February 28th, 2012
3:06 pm

My kids use to love Mario but they all outgrew it and as far as I know, arn’t interested in gaming at all. I have a distant cousin that has cerebal palsy (she’s 22) and appears and acts around 12. You can’t carry on a conversation with her and she can’t do hardly anything for herself but she has every gaming system out there and can beat anyone. Unless you can relate games with her, there is no communication so for her, this is the only life she has.

K's Mom

February 28th, 2012
3:08 pm

I don’t have a dog in this fight yet, but I will say we went to dinner on Saturday and everyone in the joint with a child between 5 and 15 was letting them play a personal gaming system instead of participate in a family meal. That is disturbing and will not happen in my house. I think if kids are allowed to take gaming systems with them everywhere that causes severe social issues.

motherjanegoose

February 28th, 2012
3:26 pm

It annoys me when people make a joke about ADD. Being scatter brained or overwhelmed, with a lot on you plate , is simply not the same. We have all been in that situation at least once in our lives but someone who is diagnosed ( or not) lives that way every day. There is really nothing funny about it. I have seen it really wreak havoc in families. I have had two and have seen teenagers and NO they are all not the same as someone who has ADHD 24/7. Is it fair to joke about someone who has a disease they obviously did not choose or act like any one of us could understand the agony? Would you make fun of someone who had a horrendous birthmark they obviously did not choose and say,” I know how it feels to have folks stare at me when I look bad.” Um…no…not the same!

I am not even going into how I feel about the topic. I concur with catlady’s first paragraph. I did want to share what I heard on the radio today: http://www.healthcare-today.co.uk/news/active-wii-games-dont-boost-exercise/21232/

motherjanegoose

February 28th, 2012
3:29 pm

K’s Mom…thank you! I do not allow anything electronic to interrupt our family dinners. Educators know the benefit of sitting down together as a family and this is something that was a priority in our house.

10 Benefits of Family Dinners

Toting up all the benefits of frequent family dinners:

Everyone eats healthier meals.
Kids are less likely to become overweight or obese.
Kids more likely to stay away from cigarettes.
They’re less likely to drink alcohol.
They won’t likely try marijuana.
They’re less likely to use illicit drugs.
Friends won’t likely abuse prescription drugs.
School grades will be better.
You and your kids will talk more.
You’ll be more likely to hear about a serious problem.
Kids will feel like you’re proud of them.
There will be less stress and tension at home.

Large Pharmaceutical Company

February 28th, 2012
3:29 pm

I want to let you all in on something. ADD is a made up problem. We make a drug, then make a problem for it to cure….I mean treat. It would be a mistake to make anything that would cure us of our problems. How would we ever get so insanely rich? We need the money to pay off the politicians to keep us as unregulated as possible, and keep marijuana illegal.

Really, your friendly family physician is just a pusher in a white coat.

God bless the US of A!!!

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
3:33 pm

@K’s Mom – That just makes me ill. Meal time is such an important time for my family. We actually TALK to each other. All cell phones (except mine and hubs’) have to be turned off at meal times. (Ours are on 24/7 in case of emergency.)

I have actually had servers walk up to us and tell us how happy they are to see an entire family without cell phones, actually communicating with each other.

Way to give in......

February 28th, 2012
3:36 pm

Your first mistake MJG is to classify ADD as a disease. It is a behavior and thus a behavioral disorder. Who calls it a disease? Those who are making money off the treatments. Serendipitous that Large Pharmacy posted above.

The moment you classify a behavior as a disease is the moment you gave up trying to cure it. The flu is a disease, not a behavior. Alcoholism is a behavior, not a disease. You all have been conditioned to believe this garbage all these years.

Augusta

February 28th, 2012
3:48 pm

I don’t think the Flu is a disease. Cancer is a disease; Lupis is a disease. Flu is a virus, a bacteria.

ADD is a DISORDER, like being bi-polar, a chemical imbalance, but definately NOT a disease. There are no walks for ADD……

motherjanegoose

February 28th, 2012
3:49 pm

My bad. If you substitute disorder, will that work for you? I have simply seen lots of folks who are out of control and it is not the same as those of use who are overwhelmed an hour or two each day. I am impatient with jokes about something that strongly affects an individual and they did not choose it themselves. What about depression? I have seen how this also can wear a person down. Then there is OCD, which can really over power individuals. Those who make jokes do not understand the pain that can be caused.

K's Mom

February 28th, 2012
3:56 pm

Thanks MJG and Augusta. We eat dinner together at least 6 nights a week, at the table. My little guy is only 21 months old, but we can last at a restaurant with him for an hour and I do not bring toys. I may bring a book and I do bring cheerios because he gets hungry when he smells food.

I was appalled that all these kids had their faces in video games and their parents did not seem to mind. There are a lot of things that I will not say never to, but that is definitely a never in our house.

K's Mom

February 28th, 2012
4:01 pm

MJG, I can see the point of seem of these posters questioning whether ADD & ADHD are real. I do think there are some real cases, but I also think there are some bad kids and lazy parents who use that catch all phrase to label their kid to get them all off the hook. I dated a guy in college who was “ADD.” He was not ADD, he was lazy as was his mom and that label fit both of their needs. Not all cases are that way, but I would say there are a bunch of ADD kids that fall into this category.

JOD

February 28th, 2012
4:11 pm

@K’s Mom – Amen to no devices at the table! It’s only an issue with Hubs. He has TWO smartphones now (1 for work), and I swear they could be surgically attached. Mama maketh the rule, and Mama enforceth the rule :o)