Managing Screen Time for Kids with ADHD

Why Controlling Screen Time Is Hard for Kids with ADHD

Many parents today are concerned about their child’s screen time. Screen time is nearly impossible to avoid. It includes time with all screens including social media, online gaming, and watching videos. The majority of children between of 5-16 years old play video-games regularly (at least 1 hour per day) and a recent study discovered that over 75% of children play for over 2 hours per day.

Enforcing limits on screen time can be particularly challenging for children who have ADHD due to:

  • Distraction – They are particularly vulnerable to the exciting colors, sounds, and images appearing in quick succession on the screen. Video games, internet videos, and social networking sites provide immediate rewards that strongly encourage continued use.
  • Difficulty with self-monitoring – This means that children with ADHD, and children in general, have a hard time recognizing when they have spent too much time on a game and when it is in their best interest to put the game down or go to sleep.
  • Poor impulse control – They may be more likely to view inappropriate videos, sext, or make poor decisions regarding internet use.

This can result in kids losing track of time and not getting schoolwork done and not getting enough sleep. Kids with ADHD often have trouble falling asleep and may turn to a screen as a way to help them go to sleep. It generally has the opposite effect. There is also some evidence that excessive screen time can exacerbate ADHD symptoms

Strategies for Helping Kids Manage Screen Time

Below are some strategies experts recommend to help your kids manage their screen time. You can find additional tips in the references below.

  • Make a plan – Create a family media plan with all family present. This includes conversations, brainstorming sessions, and considering ideas from each family member. Think of ways to motivate all your kids and provide incentives to use to get them excited about the plan.
  • Keep it age appropriate – It’s important to consider the age of your kids when managing screen time. There are recommendations online to help parents and guardians determine limits based on the types of content being consumed. Generally kids ages 2 to 5 should be allowed less than 1 hour a day. For older kids, it’s a matter of negotiating limits and boundaries.
  • Be consistent – Set a time limit for screen time and enforce limits. Choose a time of day that is consistent. This helps your child predict when they will be able to use electronics and not beg for the device 24/7. You may want to choose 30 minutes or 1 hour after your child has completed their homework. Choosing a time in the morning may distract him or her from getting ready for school.
  • Help your child tell time – Encourage them to monitor when the time to use the device is up. You can provide your child with a digital clock and/or a timer that makes a sound when it is time to put the device away. Try to provide a little advance warning when the time to put away a device is near.
  • Have use and storage rules – Have your child use electronic devices in the common living area so they can be monitored for safe and appropriate use. Have them store electronics in your bedroom overnight so that they are not temped to use games when they should be sleeping. Additionally, remove TVs from your child’s bedroom.
  • Follow screen time with physical activity – Teaching kids healthy behaviors about screen time can also translate to healthy behaviors in life. Pair up screen time activity with some sort of physical activity so that the physical activity follows the tech-based one. This can include activities like playing outside, bike riding, shooting baskets, dancing, or riding a scooter. Let you child choose the activity they would most enjoy.
  • Don’t forget the rewards – Praise your child when they respect limits for device use and provide appropriate and reasonable consequences if they purposefully disobey limits. This may include losing device time the following day.

Think of the time you invest in this as helping your kids develop healthy habits and a healthy relationship with screen time.



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