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Childhood in the digital age
Childhood in the digital age

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3.3.1 Prescribing video games for ADHD

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Figure 8 Can video games help children with attention problems to focus on a task?

Using games to change people’s brains for health reasons is an ambitious and relatively new concept. Yet there is evidence that especially for children with additional needs, assistive digital technology has many potential benefits, in either remedying the disability or compensating for it (McKnight and Davies, 2013). Technology from low-tech toys to high-tech systems can provide support for cognitive processing or can enhance memory and recall.

In partnership with NASA, SmartBrain Technologies has created a number of interactive games, including a non-violent driving game that improves visual tracking skills, hand–eye coordination, planning, concentration, memory and patience. Orlandi and Greco (2004) tested the impact of playing this driving game on boys aged 9–11 years who had a primary diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The results showed that the non-game-playing group had a dropout rate from clinical support eight times greater than the experimental group who used the game. A factor of eight is huge; and the boys also showed a number of positive behaviour changes.

In another study Cardoso-Leite and Bavelier (2014) found that when children with ADHD played a video game that they enjoyed they exhibited similar positive behaviours, such as less impulsive responses and an increased ability to stay on task.

However, a word of caution despite their promises, not all games are created equal. A better understanding of the game-play elements that improve attention and learning, as well as of the strategies developed by the players, is needed.