"This is an important finding because most research on attention problems has focused on biological and genetic factors rather than on environmental factors," said Douglas A. Gentile of Iowa State University, who led the study.
Although the findings indicated that playing violent video games also can be linked to impulsivity and attention problems, the overall amount of time spent playing any type of video game proved to be a greater factor, regardless of a child's gender, race or socio-economic status.
"It is possible that electronic media use can impair attention necessary for concentration even as it enhances the ability to notice and process visual information," Gentile was quoted as saying by the journal Psychology and Popular Media Culture.
The study described attention problems as having a difficult time engaging in or sustaining behaviour to reach a goal, particularly when the subject is difficult or boring, said a university statement.
Yet previous research has found that playing video games can improve visual attention for rapid and accurate recognition of information from the environment, the authors noted.
Researchers collected data from 3,034 children, aged eight to 17 years, over three years at 12 schools in Singapore. The children provided information about their gaming habits by completing questionnaires in their classrooms at three intervals, each a year apart starting in grades three, four, seven and eight.