A Link Between Autism and Video Games?

We always knew those video games could be addicting, but now a new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were more likely to get addicted to them than boys with “typical development.”

Video game addiction, or “problematic video game use” as it is officially called, keeps kids from more beneficial or necessary pursuits including schoolwork, social interactions and physical activity. This isn’t the first study to suggest a problem either. Other research has shown that excessive video game use can interfere with “executive function” (aka skills like paying attention, problem-solving, negotiation and delayed gratification). These functions are already a challenge for kids with ADHD and autism, so anything that exacerbates that is concerning.

The study found that boys with ASD or ADHD were three times more likely to have a gaming system in their bedroom and spent twice as much time playing video games as kids without any developmental disability. Researchers also found that children with an autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at an increased risk of gaming addictions, compared to children without these issues.

Ask almost any parent and they’ll tell you that the lure of video games is strong, especially for young boys. Even if parents don’t allow a gaming system in the house, children play at friends’ houses or on handheld devices. All of this screen time and the debate about how harmful it is to still-developing brains have made it a popular area of study.

The new study surveyed the parents of 141 boys between the ages of 8 and 18 years old. Of those, 56 had an autism spectrum disorder, 44 had ADHD and 41 were developing normally. Through this research, they found that kids with an autism spectrum disorder played an average of 2.1 hours of video games per day. Comparatively, children with ADHD spent about 1.7 hours per day playing video games and normally developing kids played about 1.2 hours per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not spend more than two hours in front of a screen per day.

Process addictions – from video gaming to gambling to shopping – are serious issues and may require professional help. If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and co-occurring disorder, call The Oaks at La Paloma at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.

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