A study published in the July 29 online edition of Pediatrics suggests that boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at greater risk for video game addiction than typically developing boys.
In a study led by Micah Mazurek, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri in Columbia, researchers surveyed the parents of nearly 150 boys ages 8 to 18 about the amount of time their sons spent playing video games each day. Of the group, 56 children had ASD, 44 had ADHD and 41 were typically developing boys.
Study results showed that boys with ASD spent nearly twice as much time playing video games – 2.1 hours versus 1.2 hours – than boys who had neither autism nor ADHD. Boys with ADHD averaged about 1.7 hours of video game use daily.
In boys with autism or ADHD, symptoms of inattention were tied to video game addiction. In addition, kids with ADHD who preferred role-playing games were at greater risk of addictive game playing.
“These results shed light into potential associated features of problematic game use and are consistent with previous studies linking impulsivity and inattention with problematic game use,” wrote study authors.
Problematic video game behaviors include being unable to disengage from playing, becoming angry when asked to stop playing, or having falling grades because of excessive gaming.
“Children with [autism] and those with ADHD experience difficulties with impulse control and response inhibition, and these problems appear to be closely related to video game preoccupation,” noted the researchers.
Study results also showed that boys who had ASD or ADHD were more likely to have a video game console in their bedrooms than the typically developing boys. It was not clear, however, if the boys had the game systems in their rooms because they played more often, or if they played more often because the games were in their rooms.
Dana Levy, PsyD, PhD, a clinical assistant professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City, advises against allowing video game systems in bedrooms.
“It’s hard for parents to put something so engaging in the bedroom and limit its use,” Levy told HealthDay News.
“There does have to be structure around video game use. Like anything else, it’s best in moderation,” said Levy.
So how much game time is acceptable?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than an hour or two of total screen time daily.
Levy concurs. “One or two hours a day of video games is fine, but it is best if they get other things done first.”
“Look at your child’s overall day,” recommended Levy. “If they’re doing well in school and taking care of other responsibilities, then video games are fine. But, if video games start to interfere in daily life, that’s when they become a concern.”