Study Indicates Gaming (and TV Viewing) Could Lead to Something

Playing videogames and watching television are linked with attention problems in kids, at least according to a study authored by Edward Swing, David Walsh, former head of the National Institute on Media and Family, and Iowa State University’s Craig Anderson and Douglas Gentile.

Television and Video Game Exposure and the Development of Attention Problems (PDF) is published in the latest edition of Pediatrics and sampled 1,323 “middle childhood participants” across a 13-month session. A second sample of 210 adolescent and early adult participants was utilized as well.

The study began by offering, “Many video games seem to share many features (eg, high excitement, rapid changes in focus) that have been identified as potentially relevant to the television association with attention problems, making a similar association between video game playing and attention problems plausible.”

The results did find a correlation between playing videogames and “greater attention problems,” and the researchers noted that the attention problems emerging from games were “similar in magnitude to the television association.”

It was also cautioned that “it is possible that certain types of television programs and video games are associated with attention problems whereas others are not.” The researchers went out of their way to note that “there is some evidence that educational television is not associated with increased attention problems,” but did not make a similar case for videogames.

The academics also threw another statement against the wall in the hopes that it would stick, stating, “… there are theoretical reasons to believe that slower paced educational, nonviolent content is less likely to cause attention problems, but more studies on this issue are especially needed.”

Given the inclusion of Gentile and Anderson, a pair whose research constantly seeks to vilify or belittle videogames, one has to wonder: if the results of this study somehow did not implicate games (or television) as a factor in later attention problems, would the study have been published at all? Were the results shaped from the beginning?

Thanks HarmlessBunny, SimonBob and Wai Yen Tang!

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