Video Game 'Addiction': Children with Autism, ADHD at Greater Risk

First Posted: Jul 29, 2013 11:04 AM EDT

New research suggests that boys with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may be at a greater risk for developing a video game addiction

A study of approximately 150 boys found that those with an autism spectrum disorder were more likely to play video games for significantly longer periods of time than boys without the health issue. In fact, on average, those with ASD played 2.1 hours per day versus 1.2 hours per day. Boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) averaged 1.7 hours of video game use daily, according to the study.

Yet, experts aren't particularly surprised by these findings as they believe the constant entertainment provided through video games may make up for some of the difficulties these children are experiencing in relationships with peers.

"Boys with ADHD and boys on the autism spectrum both have difficulties relating with peers," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, via U.S. News and World Report.

And health experts note that moderate use of video games is not harmful, even for children with ASD or an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately one in 88 children have been identified with an ASD, and ASDs are five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than girls (1 in 252).

Common features of autism may include impaired social and communications skills and possibly a repetitive interest in a restricted number of activities. These activities can be seen in excessive video game use, according to the study.

In this study, researchers examined 56 boys with an ASD, 44 boys with ADHD and 41 normally developing boys, who ranged in age from 8 to 18. Parents were required to fill out a questionnaire based on their child's video game involvement.

Results showed that symptoms of inattention but not hyperactivity in boys with autism and ADHD were strongly linked to problematic video game use.

Dana Levy, an assistant professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU Child Study Center in New York City, said via the news organiation, that this was especially true of children who had video game consoles in the privacy of their own bedroom, something she cautions against.

"It's hard for parents to put something so engaging in the bedroom and limit its use," Levy said, adding that it may not be the best thing for children with ADHD or ASD to isolate themselves with video games.

However, she also concludes that if a child with one of these health conditions is doing well in other areas of their life-school, social life, etc.-video games in moderation can be a positive thing.

"One to two hours a day of video games is fine, but it's best if they get other things done first."

More information regarding the study can be found in the journal Pediatrics

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