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Video Games and Impulsivity

Is Your Child Impulsive? Video Games Aren’t Helping
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH

Impulsive children with attention problems tend to play more video games, and kids who play lots of video games are at risk for becoming more impulsive and developing attention problems. Many savvy moms might have already suspected this, but a recent study* conducted by scientists at Iowa State University makes it official.

The researchers collected data from more than 3,000 children, ages 8 to 17 years old, over a three-year period. The children provided information about their video game playing habits by completing questionnaires in their classrooms at three intervals, each a year apart starting in grades three, four, seven and eight.

The children also underwent psychological tests commonly used to measure attention and impulsiveness. Attention problems were identified by asking the kids questions such as how often they “fail to give close attention to details or make careless mistakes” in their work or “blurt out answers before questions have been completed.” For the impulsivity test, the children selected sentences they felt described themselves, such as “I often make things worse because I act without thinking” or “I concentrate easily.”

What’s a mom to do? Whether or not your child has problems with attention or impulsiveness, it’s always wise to put a time limit on video games, and then stick with it. This is one battle worth fighting.

*Douglas A. Gentile, Edward L. Swing, Choon Guan Lim, Angeline Khoo. Video game playing, attention problems, and impulsiveness: Evidence of bidirectional causality.. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2012; 1 (1): 62 DOI: 10.1037/a0026969

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