Watch out for “obsession.” Children with ADHD may become “hyper-focused” on electronics. The intense engagement that kids with ADHD display while playing video games is a double-edged sword, fraught with both danger and great opportunity. Goes without saying that over-use of technology, or playing inappropriate video games, can have many negative repercussions.
What’s a parent to do? Electronics in all its glorious forms of video games, laptops, tablets, smartphones, to name just a few, are part of our culture. They are our kid’s toys, just like GI Joe and Barbie’s were our toys. It’s not realistic to keep your kids off of electronics.
They can be good and bad for us at the same time. Video games and other digital media can be a powerful tool for learning in children with ADHD. For example:
• Sports-themed video games often require a child to think mathematically about player statistics in the midst of difficult distractions.
• Many video games, particularly those on mobile and handheld devices, require kids to focus on what they’re reading for extended periods of time.
But, is your kid addicted to electronics? Thinking that’s crazy? I’m telling you, many, many parents are afraid they’ve lost their kid to electronic addiction. What most parents have discovered is it’s not so much an addiction. It’s more of a deficiency in structure and boundaries around using electronics.
If the electronic footing in your family seems wobbly at best, it’s probably in need of some structure.
Signs of electronic over-use could include someone:
- Not socializing with friends and family at all or as much as they used too.
- Becoming highly agitated.
- Seems more fatigued because sleep patterns are thrown out-of-wack.
- Forgets to eat or doesn’t join the family for dinner anymore.
- Has placed an unhealthy level of importance of winning or getting to the next level. It is the only thing that matters.
- Neglects other responsibilities. Using electronics as a means of procrastination.
- Complains of headaches consistently.
- Has lost all sense of time. Time management and having a sense of time are often significant deficits for children with attention problems. They often become so absorbed with activities they find interesting, they lose track of how much time they have spent on their digital play.
- Gaining weight because physical exercise is non-existent.
7 Strategies to build structure around electronics.
- Set time limits and enforce them! Use a timer if you need to limit your child with ADHD. You can use online timers such as http://www.timer-tab.com or even an everyday kitchen timer to keep your child on track.
- Fend off procrastination by having your child complete all homework, chores, or other responsibilities before being allowed some digital play time. Putting-off these fun activities until after other work is done, takes away electronics as the tool of choice for procrastinating.
- Remember last weeks structure tips on exercise? Physical exercise has been shown to improve focus and learning in children with attentional problems. Tell your child to go out and run around before and after playing video games, and to play active games such as Wii Tennis or Kinect Adventures
- Shut-off all electronics, including TV at least one hour before bedtime. The blue-screen tricks our brains into thinking it’s not night-time and then our brains don’t produce the melatonin chemical that regulates sleep.
- Set limits on the kinds of video games and activities your kids are playing on electronics. They should have some learning or educational value. Your kid may not realize it, but the only thing that matters is you know the value.
- Play with your kid. See what it’s all about. You’ll see your kid from a different perspective. This could help you figure out together the kinds of games that your kid likes and why. Then you can find games that are both entertaining and brain healthy.
- No electronics if friends are over. I use this consistently. It’s important for kids to make eye contact with each other, not the screen. You’ll be amazed what kids will find to do. I found mine climbing trees which entailed; physical exercise, problem solving, socializing, fresh air….all great brain boosting activities!
Leave a quick comment below if you would like to see more information on managing electronics for your kids. This is a huge topic and I’d love to share more if electronic overload is happening in your family.