Preventing Video Game Addiction in Children with ADHD


Video game addiction poses a real threat to the ADHD child’s ability to focus on task and his or her development of good learning skills!

In our last post, we discussed how children and teens could become addicted to small screens and repetitive hand and fast eye movement experiences-video games and texting.

So, what can a parent do to help their ADHD child; who definitely can’t focus in class, much less do his or her homework without help; avoid the addiction of texting and video games?

First we need to understand the difference between paying attention and maintaining prolonged concentration on texting or video games and say…doing one’s homework or paying attention in class or driving a car without speeding and getting tickets.

In a nutshell, the big difference is that when a child or a teen is playing a video game, watching a fast moving movie or texting; he or she is being constantly rewarded-often these rewards or feel good events occur many times a minute. This type of stimulation helps keep them focused on the small screen-the game-texting.

These instant gratification-constant and consistent rewards in playing video games and text-messaging actually strongly reinforce and in some cases train and condition the child’s behavior-so that he or she will play the game or use the cell phone to the exclusion of everything else. For those of you that are psychologically inclined, it’s like Pavlov’s dog experiment and ringing the bell for food.

The same type of reward and reinforcement patterns is very hard to reproduce and provide in the classroom or at home when your child is doing homework. So…he or she loses attention and concentration rapidly and can’t seem to focus.

So, what is a parent to do?

• Both parents should agree on rules about the use of these electronic devices-decide how long, what time of day and what type of games may be played-decide about appropriate and safe text-messaging and the number of minutes-not hours-your child can text in 24 hours
• Once both parents agree on basic rules, the child or teen should be asked to help further define or refine the guidelines. Failure to include him or her in the decision will just set the stage for disaster
• Explain and outline exactly what must be done before playing games or texting friends…that includes homework, cleaning their room, and doing other chores
• Agree on a reward system for when your child has followed the rules to the letter-say…an additional 15 to 30 minutes of play or texting per day
• Set up penalties for failure to follow these rules-for example, loss of video or texting for no more than 2 days per episode
• Above all enforce the rules-don’t be a parent wimp-if you say you’re going to do it…then be prepared to follow through!

Just using these simple guidelines may help your child avoid video game-texting addiction and who knows? Maybe he or she will learn how to study, become more curious and explore his or her world, and actually get out into nature to be a part of this world….with all of their “free time” away from the electronic screen.
Dr. Frank

P.S. you might want to review these previous posts:

Does exercise help ADHD?

How to Prevent Cyberbullying and Help Victims

Silver, Larry MD. Is Your ADHD Child Addicted to Video Games? ADDitude Magazine: Summer 2008 issue. Accessed 060711.

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