Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood and persists into adulthood. People with this diagnosis often have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or being overly active or energetic. Children with ADHD might also talk too much, have trouble taking turns, or have difficulty getting along with others. In most cases, ADHD can be treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy.
Screen time (on any electronics such as iPads, televisions, or phones) can impact those with an ADHD diagnosis greatly, especially children. Children with ADHD are especially pulled to screens because of their short attention spans. Screens contain graphics, sound, and entertainment that are delivered instantly, which sends their brains a steady dose of dopamine, which is a feel good chemical. If it feels like your child is getting addicted to screens, it is because in some ways their brains are getting addicted to the release of dopamine that they get when on screens. This makes it more difficult to want to put screens down and do any other activity, especially responsibilities such as chores, going to school, or even getting up to use the bathroom.
Many studies on screen time and ADHD symptoms were completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results found that screen time for these children not only made their ADHD symptoms worse but also increased other mental health issues such as anxiety and acting-out behaviors like frustration and anger. These children also had a lack of interest in school and other activities and problems with sleep.
Instead of screen time, children with ADHD need to get their blood pumping. Exercise or any physical movement does the opposite of screens and helps increase their attention spans and focus. It also helps with memory and impulse control.
What you can do as a parent to help your child with ADHD manage screen time:
Set a timer or talk to your child ahead of time about how long screen time should last.
Make a list of the activities that must be done before screen time is available.
Set aside activities you can do together once screen time is over.
Have screen time in a common room to help monitor time and what they watch/are doing on the electronics.
Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed to allow your child to unwind and detach from their screens.