According to a new study, the amount of time your children spend watching television or playing video games can negatively impact their ability to focus. In fact, too much time spent engaging in these two activities is correlated with double the risk of attention problems in children and young adults. The study is but one of the latest of many to discover the link between too much screen time and the effects on attention span. Researcher Edward Swing, a graduate student at Iowa State University, compared participants who watched or played less than two hours a day of television or video games—the American Academy of Pediatric’s recommendation—with those who watched more. Overall, Swing discovered that the children who exceeded the AAP recommendation were 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have greater than average attention problems. Furthermore, Swing looked at two groups, 210 college students and 1,300 elementary school students, and found that the elementary students were less likely to experience attention problems related to their television viewing behavior or their video game playing than the college students. However, the college students were only slightly more likely to experience more problems than the elementary students.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, also studies the relationship between television viewing behavior or video game playing and subsequent attention problems. Dr. Christakis also stated that ADHD is ten times more common than it was twenty years ago. Moreover, although Dr. Christakis acknowledges that our genetics can change over time and could therefore partially explain the decreased ability to focus, it is more likely that other environmental factors have affected our attention spans since the change has occurred so rapidly. Additionally, Dr. Christakis research revealed that faster-paced shows increase the risk of attention problems because the mind adjusts to pace. Similarly, shooting games are different than problem-solving games in their effects on attention span. Nevertheless, both researchers agree that children and young adults should stick to the 2-hour-a-day recommendation suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to save their ability to focus.