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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Children, Television, Video Games and Attention Problems

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 19th 2010

Children, Television, Video Games and Attention ProblemsIt is said that "A picture is worth a thousand words." However, what is the impact of our children watching pictures through television and video games? Evidently, nothing good.

The University of Iowa Department of Psychology released the results of a study on the effects of watching television and video games. The outcome of this research demonstrated the very real possibility that it is best for parents to limit the amount of time children spend on both activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting television viewing to no more than two hours per day. Why does this happen?

It isn't clear why television and video may increase attention problems. However, some psychologists speculate that it may be due to "rapid-pacing, or the natural attention grabbing aspects that television and video games use." In other words, the quick pace television and video may have a brain altering impact on children and adolescents. This altering of the brain is what may limit attention span.

On the other hand, life in the classroom, at home and in social situations, does not provide the fast and immediate stimulation provided by modern media. Consequently, children and teenagers lose their ability to focus. Even reading a book becomes challenging because it does not supply that rapid fire stimulation.

Scientist still do not know what causes ADHD but the researchers involved in the Iowa study caution that television and video games may be a contribution factor to ADHD.

What are your experiences with modern media and attention problems? It would be good to hear from parents and young people.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

a journal reference - Jana Hurta - Sep 1st 2010

PEDIATRICS Vol. 126 No. 2 August 2010, pp. 214-221 (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-1508)

Another Source - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD, LCSW - Jul 20th 2010

Hi Mark,

I am familiar with the findings but I also do not remember the source. In addition, there is evidence that video games stimulate reflexes and quickness. My sense is that, with regard to children and teens, its best to limit exposure to these types of things: no more and probably less than two hours per day. Also, the younger the child, the more it should be limited.

Dr. Schwartz

Info from another source. - Mark Adams - Jul 20th 2010

I wish I could remember the source, but an article I read in a psychology magazine (I'm sorry I don't recall the title.) stated that those who play video games tend to have a higher I.Q.  If anyone has come across this article please let me know.  I know this has little to do with attention span, but I feel still worth pointing out.

Was the study done on specific kinds of games?  Was it done on different kinds of television show.  I'm sure not all are face paced and give immediate gratification.

limit all screen time - KayeAnn Mason LICSW - Jul 19th 2010

My practice specializes in the treatment of ADHD. In addition to reducing television and video game time, I recommend limiting the amount of screen time period...which includes computer and cell phone time as well.

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