Television viewing has been associated with greater subsequent attention problems in children. Few studies have examined the possibility of a similar association between video games and attention problems, and none of these has used a longitudinal design.
A sample of 1323 middle childhood participants were assessed during a 13-month period by parent- and child-reported television and video game exposure as well as teacher-reported attention problems. Another sample of 210 late adolescent/early adult participants provided self-reports of television exposure, video game exposure, and attention problems.
Exposure to television and video games was associated with greater attention problems. The association of television and video games to attention problems in the middle childhood sample remained significant when earlier attention problems and gender were statistically controlled. The associations of screen media and attention problems were similar across media type (television or video games) and age (middle childhood or late adolescent/early adult).
Viewing television and playing video games each are associated with increased subsequent attention problems in childhood. It seems that a similar association among television, video games, and attention problems exists in late adolescence and early adulthood. Research on potential risk factors for attention problems should be expanded to include video games in addition to television.