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

JATL

February 28th, 2012
4:16 pm

@K’s Mom -agreed! I am horrified by even good friends of mine sticking a gaming system in their kids’ hands for every social occasion! Instead of teaching these kids how to act or getting a sitter -they’re turning them into anti-social and socially inept zombies. I’m not even anti-personal gaming systems or video games, but they have their time and place! Everyone keeps asking when we’re getting my oldest child a DS (his sixth birthday is coming up), and I tell them that I’m waiting until he is begging for it by brand name and he’s older -and then there will be limits! He knows what personal systems are and has mentioned that he would like one, but he can be enough of a pill over just the tiny amount he’s allowed to play regular games at home.

My worst experience seeing kids with personal gaming systems was a mother I know who got all bent out of shape because several little boys were playing chase with “guns” (they were making guns with their hands) and she lost it over the gun thing -so she handed this 4 year old his gaming system on a GORGEOUS day at the park and he sat there by a tree playing it instead of running around and playing outside! I’ve never been able to think of her the same way again!

There will be no gaming systems or phones at the table in our family. I don’t even allow DVDs in the car unless the trip is over two hours. Kids need to learn to entertain themselves without devices and to be patient. The problem is that sometimes that’s unpleasant for mommy and daddy, so they don’t enforce it.

K's Mom

February 28th, 2012
4:33 pm

@jatl and JOD, so glad to hear that I am not the only mean mama out there. I see a lot of easy parenting being done these days and it is ridiculous. My husband’s daughter always wanted to bring a book out to dinner with us when we first met. Because books are not electronic she thought that did not count, I put the kibosh on books at dinner too. I love when kids love to read, but not at the dinner table.

FCM

February 28th, 2012
4:40 pm

@ MJG….if I did not make some fun of the ADD and ADHD in my house I would sit and cry. You are right, anyone out there that thinks this is not real or is a joke is mistaken. Imagine a child who cannot pay attention long enough to learn something basic. I had to put my ADHD on (Adderall actually) just to teach her to basic tools for life.

I can look at this child (before the meds kick in) and say “go put on your shoes” and 5 min later find her feeding the dog without shoes. You can say “Sally, what did I tell you to do because the bus will be here in 10 min” and she will stare right at you (after 6 years of school now!) and say I don’t know. Took me forever, but I finally realized she really doesn’t know!!! I put a check list on her wall and now she comes down 100% dressed for the bus.

Wayne

February 28th, 2012
4:47 pm

@FCM: Do you use checklists for just getting dressed or other things as well? We tried the reward(s) method for a while and that didn’t seem to help. I end up giving my boys their medicine 30 minutes before they get up so that they have a chance to get ready for school. If I don’t, it’s just a huge battle. I try to keep in mind that it’s not them, but it can be difficult to remember that when you’re walking out the door and they still don’t have their shoes on.

It’s a rule that they are not allowed TV or any other electronic devices before school.

motherjanegoose

February 28th, 2012
4:57 pm

@ K’s Mom, I am referring to people who have actually been diagnosed.

@FCM…those who do not know ….DO NOT KNOW.

jarvis

February 28th, 2012
6:27 pm

I am ADD. I was on Ritalin from age 8 to 15. I was a terrible student. I couldn’t concentrate on anything longer than 10 minutes, and didn’t ever do my work because I guess it wasn’t stimulating enough. Try reading 5 pages only to realize that you’ve been thinking about something else the entire time you’ve been reading and haven’t actually absorbed a thing you’ve read.

I now hold an MBA and a really good job. Continue to love and support your kids. The ADD and ADHD will get better with maturity…at least it did with me.

I put my folks through hell, but we all came through it OK. Hang in there.

K's Mom

February 28th, 2012
6:49 pm

@MJG, he had been diagnosed and was on medication and he told me it was bogus and I could tell it was bogus. there was a period of time in the 80’s that if you learned slightly differently the school psych was called, you were labeled ADD and of to the pediatrician for Ritalyn you went. My brother fell into this category so my parents took him to 2 independent psychologists and a pediatrican that was well know in the field and they all said he was not ADD, but rather a curious kid who needed a little differentiation. He has a college degree and was never medicated. I think folks that fall in my age range are skeptical of ADD because we saw too many disruptive and badly behaved kids get a free ride because of a bogus diagnosis that lazy parents sought so they did not have to parent and set boundaries.

DB

February 28th, 2012
6:53 pm

I don’t think it’s necessarily cause-and-effect. That’s what I hate about trying to extrapolate from correlative data, because there’s no measurement of what the kid’s attention span was BEFORE they started playing with video games.

The theory is definitely plausible. It’s also equally plausible that the child’s own propensity for quick, short-attention-bursts of information makes video games that much more attractive to them. Which came first? Chicken? Egg? Who knows?

Here’s my own theory, for what it’s worth (not much, granted :-). I think some kids’ brains are more susceptible to attention issues, just like some kids are more artistically creative, some kids are amazing in math, some are extremely verbal, etc., etc. I’ve often felt that fast-paced shows like Sesame Street and Electric Company, etc., where information was presented in short, sporadic bursts at too early of an age, helped train young child’s brains away from extended attention to attention deficits.

My husband and I were noticing it at a movie, recently — the newer Sherlock Holmes movie. Many of the action scenes in the movie seemed designed for the ADD-generation — kids and young people that grew up getting information in short, kaleidascopic bursts. The action scenes were super-quick bursts of action, speeded up and slowed down erratically, like Sesame Street counting down numbers, etc.

That’s not to say that every kid who watched Sesame Street is ADD — that’s patently not true — but I think that for those kids who may have had a tendency toward attention issues, that style of edu-tainment only helped to push it along a scale from “mild” to “full-blown”.

Anyway, that’s MY theory :-) I just find it intriguing that ADD wasn’t a huge issue until a few years after Sesame Street started. More correlative data, to be sure.

fcm on cell

February 28th, 2012
7:39 pm

@ Wayne. Yes we do other checklists. I tried giving meds early but then they wear off before school ends. Dr recently said not on weekends & life is hell. I have a hard time doing errands or getting her to do her chores, not to mention my chores get side tracked.llym

When I was younger.....

February 28th, 2012
8:40 pm

We didn’t call it ADD. We called it retardation. It still should be.

You all stop being victims and do something for yourself.

fcm on cell

February 29th, 2012
5:18 am

ADD & ADHD people tend to have higher than average I Q. Retarded people by definition have lower than average IQ. Yet another reason Trolls are a lower life form, their low intellects.

Augusta

February 29th, 2012
8:01 am

I don’t buy depression either. That’s a choice. You chose to be sad. Depression is NOT a disease.

Wayne

February 29th, 2012
10:34 am

@FCM: we ran into that too; we end up giving them the short term med in the afternoon – otherwise homework is hell.

Weekends they get the morning dose later and generally it lasts throughout the day. Unless we’re doing something, then we’ll give the short dose later in the afternoon.

Certainly no retardation here, I can assure you of that. That certainly came out of left field…

FCM

February 29th, 2012
10:54 am

@ Wayne…they won’t let her take the meds on weekends due to her low weight. (She is about 60 lbs and is 9). I don’t get it, the kid eats like an elephant (yep lots of veggies and fruit!!). I assume yours don’t have that issue?

Voice of Reason

February 29th, 2012
1:16 pm

@Homeschooler

I could not possibly expect someone closed-minded enough to home-school their children to understand that it takes the same amount of hard-work, dedication, and raw talent to win a video game championship as it does to become a professional athlete.

Also, those “kinds of boys and men involved in “Major League Gaming”” ultimately grow up to run Fortune 500 companies. Take a look at men like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and see what their net worth is before you criticize something you know absolutely nothing about.

Wayne

February 29th, 2012
1:25 pm

One eats like a horse at breakfast-time (youngest) and tapers off through the day, and the oldest eats like mad at supper-time (not much, if anything at breakfast). Drives me a bit bonkers but both are at appropriate weight – what they are I can’t say because I wasn’t listening the last time the oldest got weighed because, well, I was chasing the youngest. I think I mentioned this before but they are 8 and 5.

Wayne

February 29th, 2012
1:27 pm

I wish I could find the article that I read about some of the good things with regard to video gaming. In it, they spoke about kids being able to multitask (play the game, carry on a conversation) and in multi-player games, lead or strategize with others. Not that that means kids should go all out bonkers playing the games, but it’s not all horrible.

[...] Gaming May be responsible for Causing Impulsive Behavior Among Kids …TopNews United StatesAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 20 news [...]

motherjanegoose

February 29th, 2012
2:56 pm

@ Augusta….are you serious? You then, have not been around people who are seriously depressed…so much they have taken their life. I do not know what to say, except what I have already said, “those who do not know….DO NOT KNOW.”

FCM

February 29th, 2012
6:21 pm

I have a hypothosis that ADD & ADHD is actually evolution at it’s best. The higher IQ, the ability to grasp concepts and process data quickly…..Yet we teach to the Lowest Common Denominator so ADD/ADHD are seen as issues rather than advancement.

homeschooler

February 29th, 2012
10:54 pm

FCM I can agree with that. My oldest has a lot of characteristics of ADD. He has a terrible time focussing, gets distracted easily and needs a great deal of stimulation. In fact, the previous description of the child who couldn’t find the toothbrush in the back pack could totally be my child. At the same time, he has a very high level of intelligence. He has a very complex mind and is very difficult to teach because of this. My very average child is much easier to homeschool. Perhaps if my son was in a regular school he would have developed behavior problems. I’ll never know but I can tell you that the children I personally know who have been diagnosed ADD have all been extremely bright. I find it very sad and wonder how many little Einsteins are getting lost in our school systems because they think and learn differently than the other children do.

@ Voice, your comment about homeschooling just shows how closed minded YOU are. I agree that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have the same kinds of brains that “gamers” have. Fortunately they used that gift in a positive way and fortunately they grew up pre-video game era or they might have been diagnosed ADD and living on disability.

Voice of Reason

March 1st, 2012
7:33 am

@homeschooler

We’ll just agree to disagree on the home schooling topic then.

Wayne

March 1st, 2012
9:14 am

One of the reasons we pulled my oldest out of public school was just that – he was bored out of his skull because they were teaching to the LCD. We kept trying to impress on the teacher that he was a bright kid (yeah, I know, he’s my kid) but half-way through the school year, she finally admitted to us that yeah, he’s a bright kid. Nice. But she still has to teach to the LCD. With 27 kids, at all levels, what can she really do?

He’s in private school, doing really well. So far! It’s a stretch financially but it’s working.

The youngest is in Pre-K at this school and doing really well too. The problem(s) with him are he slightly delayed. We don’t treat him that way. The public school has a preconceived notion of what he is, so they don’t challenge him. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. He needs to be challenged. Guess what? He’s catching up. He was tested yesterday, and he’s coming along quite nicely. Between the medication helping him to stay focused, and the proper guidance, he’s doing really well.

homeschooler

March 1st, 2012
1:17 pm

@ Wayne.. my youngest (now 8) showed no interest in learning at 4 or 5. Where her brother knew all his letters and letter sounds by 2 she could not have cared less. She would have been labled “behind” by the standards of pre-K and kindergarten. Funny thing is that when she turned six, she buckled right down, learned to spell, read etc.. in a matter of months. My opinions on homeschooling are definitely not that “everyone should do it” but do think that we start “school” way too early. I wish all academic based programs started at 6 or 7. IMO that is when almost all children are ready to sit down and learn. Your son might be just fine in 1st grade. I wouldn’t let anyone baby or label him but don’t push him either.

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11:55 pm

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