ADHD and screen time
Parents of children with ADHD often raise questions related to screen time. Let's explore a few important considerations.
Why do children and teenagers with ADHD seem to be nearly "absorbed" by video games and barely manage their behaviour when they approach their screen time limit?
The main challenges for somebody with an ADHD diagnosis are related to "executive functioning" - complex skills that are "managed" by the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain. Executive functioning is related to setting goals, staying on top of tasks, switching from one situation to another, controlling impulses and emotions. ADHD negatively impacts all executive functioning elements, including challenges with planning, controlling behaviour and overcoming boredom.
At the same time - there is a strong need for stimulation, accomplishments and a sense of success. Video games and other "screen time activities" provide incredibly fast-paced stimulation so much needed by children with ADHD. Additionally, video games provide instant gratification and imminent rewards - a sense of success. These are the features that make computer games so attractive for children with or without ADHD.
Why do children with ADHD symptoms are so inattentive when doing homework while being able to keep their focus during onscreen activities?
Attention required in video games is different as compared to the attention needed to complete a school project. Video games are based on a more "passive" and "effortless" state of attention than mentally challenging & draining activities necessary to complete homework. It means that children can play video games and concentrate on them for much longer periods of time than in a classroom setting.
What is the appropriate screen time limit for children with ADHD?
A significant consideration about screen time limits is related to a very basic concept: every age group has specific developmental tasks. When there is too much screen time, children will not spend the time doing other things that are more valuable and sensitive for their development.
As children with ADHD have challenges with planning and control, there should be parental oversight of screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 1 hour of total media screen time for elementary school children and 2 hours for kids in secondary school.