Cyber activities can enhance our ability to pay attention. One study found, for example, that surgeons who play video games make fewer mistakes in certain laparoscopic procedures than their non-gaming colleagues. But the video-gaming doctors who participated in the above study only played three hours per week, paling in comparison to the screen time logged by the majority of America’s children.
Young people in this country log an average of somewhere between thirty and forty hours of weekly screen time, begging the question, after how many hours of play does the benefit of video gaming run out? A recent Iowa State University study correlates increasing weekly computer and video game use with a decrease in the ability to sustain attention. The video game exposure of a sample of 1323 middle childhood participants was examined during a 13-month period through parent, teacher and child reporting measures. Quite simply, exposure to television and video games was strongly associated with problems of attention.
Of course, with rising awareness and diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), one wonders about the impact of cyber activities on those suffering with that condition. In the June issue of Attention Magazine, cyber addictions were discussed as an increasing problem with those suffering from ADHD. People with ADHD have a well-documented heightened risk for substance abuse, and now it seems with cyber addictions as well.
Those most drawn to cyber activities, like the Internet and video games, respond to the multifaceted and constantly-changing nature of the cyber world. They are often bored with routines and repetition. Ironically, as the above study suggests, the longer they stay plugged in to cyber land, the less capable they are of sustaining the types of routines necessary for a successful life. School, career and relationships require great deals of attention. As the ability to pay attention goes down, so do the chances for a happy life.