Video game addiction increases with ADHD, autism? Poppycock

A new study says boys who fall along the autism spectrum or who have ADHD may be more easily addicted to video games. But the study seems sensationalist to this blogger, whose son has Asperger's syndrome and a creative side inspired by video games. 

Nintendo/AP Photo
Boys with austism or ADHD are more likely to become addicted to video gaming, a study says. Addicted? How so? A scene from "Yoshi's Island" on the Nintendo 3DS.

I would be worried about the study from the journal Pediatrics, which states that boys with autism or ADHD have a higher risk of developing an addiction to video games, if I hadn’t witnessed a very positive side-effect of gaming in my own Asperger’s child – he taps his creative side to make arts and crafts inspired by the video games he plays.

The study posed questions to 141 parents of boys  about the child's video game usage. The children included 56 boys with autism, 44 with ADHD, and 41 with no such conditions. The study found:

  • Autistic boys played video games twice as long as non-autistic boys, 2.1 hours a day compared with 1.2 hours a day.
  • Boys with ADHD were also more likely to spend more time playing video games than other kids.
  • Boys with autism were also more likely to play role-playing games.  

So that's "addiction?" 

This isn’t 'Breaking Bad' – it’s a chubby little Italian plumber riding a little dragon, or an ongoing series of building block problems that force your child to think, often at speed, through numerous situations.

Doing that sort of critical thinking for two hours per day isn’t what I would feel comfortable calling an “addiction.” On Wednesdays and Saturdays, I call that chess, since that’s how long I sit kids down to “game” in our community as a chess club volunteer.

Good can come from video games. Take my son who has Asperger's, for example. 

“Mom, I found these videos by a guy called Goomzilla on how to make your own plushies of stuff in my games,” said Quin, 9. He loves Mario and Minecraft games. “Will you help me sew them?”

The only thing I am worse at than gaming is sewing, but I pounced on his idea. I felt it would allow him to radiate some creativity from within that orderly, regimented mind of his.

Over the last 19 years as a mom with four boys, I have learned to ask which game we’re talking about before judging it as a bad thing. I don’t like games with bloodshed, but games where the player builds things, problem solves, or role-plays have benefits. We need to understand the differences in game genres and not assume that what our kids are playing is automatically harmful to them.

“OK mom, I have a plan,” Quin said. He had lists of materials, colors, and an attack plan laying out the order in which we’d tackle our new summer project list. “I think the star is going to be our best choice to start and if we really push, we can make a Yoshi, which is quite complicated.”

We raided Walmart for measuring and cutting devices, felt and plush fabrics, needles, pins with pearly heads, and a “tomato” for sticking the pins in. I don’t know who Goomzilla is, but every single video-taught design worked. An army of freaky little homemade stuffed creatures from Quinny’s favorite video games now surrounds us.

I am not alone in seeing the benefits some games can provide.

The United Nations began using Minecraft, one of Quin's favorite games, last September, according to CSM Blogger Ann Collier “U.N.-Habitat agency teamed up with Mojang to launch a program called Block by Block. It will use Minecraft to digitally reimagine 300 run-down public spaces in the next three years, giving people who live near them the chance to chime in on how they might be improved. First up: a dilapidated park in Nairobi’s business district and parts of its Kibera slum.”

While studies can shed light on things that should concern us as parents the best studies are the ones we do ourselves. Watch your kids and try doing the game they’re doing before you judge it or them.

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