Parents who believe that playing video games is less harmful to their kids' attention spans than watching TV may want to reconsider -- and unplug the Xbox. Video games can sap a child's attention just as much as the tube, a new study suggests.
Elementary school children who play video games more than two hours a day are 67 percent more likely than their peers who play less to have greater-than-average attention problems, according to the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.
Playing video games and watching TV appear to have roughly the same link to attention problems, even though video games are considered a less passive activity, the researchers say.
"Video games aren't less likely than television to be related to attention problems," says the lead author of the study, Edward Swing, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Iowa State University, in Ames. "They were at least as strong as television at predicting attention problems."
The study also suggests that young kids aren't the only ones whose attention spans may be affected by video games.
In addition to surveying the elementary school kids, the researchers asked 210 college students about their TV and video-game use and how they felt it affected their attention. The students who logged more than two hours of TV and video games a day were about twice as likely to have attention problems, the researchers found.