Short Description: TV, Video Games, And Attention Problems
Background: Researchers have often found an association between television viewing and higher rates of attention problems over time, though not all studies have supported this link. There are also concerns, but little empirical investigation, regarding video games leading to attention problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under age two watch no television and that children older than two engage in two or fewer hours of screen time (video games and television) per day. A recent study investigated whether time spent playing video games and watching TV predicted future attention problems. A total of 1,323 six to 12 year olds (and their parents) tracked time spent watching TV and playing video games weekly. Attention problems were assessed by the children’s teachers. At baseline, there was a small but significant correlation between attention problems and both video game playing and television watching. Time spent playing video games at baseline had a significant but small association with attention problems at 13-month follow-up; the association between TV watching at baseline and attention problems at follow-up was small and of borderline statistical significance. Both analyses controlled for gender, grade level, and attention problems at baseline. In addition, the study found a moderate and significant correlation between current attention problems and both video game time and TV time in a sample of 210 college students (Swing EL et al, Pediatrics 2010;126:214–221).
TCPR's Take: A letter to the editor noted that the teacher-completed measure of attention was not well-validated, which might limit the study’s validity (Ferguson CJ et al, Pediatrics e-letter available online). Also, other potentially influential variables such as household environment and parenting style were not included in the study. Though overall TV viewing and video game playing time were only slightly predictive of attention problems, particular types of video games and television could be more problematic