TV, Video Games May Increase Attention ProblemsProbably of little surprise to anyone who has a child today, a new study out of Iowa State University suggests a correlation between time spent watching TV or playing video games, and having increased attention problems at school.

The study looked at 1,323 middle-school aged children and followed their video game and television viewing habits over the course of 13 months. They also had teacher reports (from multiple teachers) of the child’s in-class attention span and performance.

Using the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics of 2 hours/day as the maximum amount of time a child should be watching TV or playing video games, the researchers found those children who exceeded the maximum had more attention problems, as reported by their teachers.

The middle school students in the study spent an average of 4.26 hours a day watching TV or playing video games. A comparison group of college students spent 4.82 hours daily on the same activities.

Teacher ratings have historically not been the most accurate measure of attention problems in school. While important for making an individual diagnosis (of attention deficit disorder, for instance), prior research studies haven’t always found such ratings to be reliable in larger subject pools. To combat this issue, the current study compared multiple teacher ratings for each student, to try and ensure greater reliability of agreement.

The study begs the question, though: since most kids these days easily exceed the 2 hour recommended maximum screen viewing time, what’s to be done? Keeping kids away from the TV or video games is simply not always an option. Perhaps we can better teach or train children on how to use these types of entertainment without suffering from associated attention issues.

And of course the alternative explanation should also be considered — those children who are more likely to have attentional problems regardless of the reason may be drawn to spending more time watching TV or playing videos games because of their nature. Such kids may find TV or video games fits into their own attentional needs better than children who don’t have attention problems. Such an explanation cannot be ruled out by research such as this (which did not specifically examine the causes and effects of attention problems reported by the teachers).

Read the full news article: TV, Video Games May Increase Attention Problems