What can Children with ADHD Teach Us
Digital technology use has snowballed in the past 15 years and led to unheard-of opportunities, but also some challenges – one of the problems is to do with over-using screen time to the point of addiction. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are particularly prone to screen time addiction because they’re drawn to the internet and video games like moths to a flame. Playing a fabulous video game can be a bit like living in a movie, where everything is full-on fun, so you can’t blame kids for wanting to do it. But we all know that too much of something good can end up being something that’s very bad for us, and this is especially so for kids with ADHD who tend to hyperfocus on games and get completely hooked.
The ‘Glow Kids’ Phenomenon
We’ve all seen it: kids and adults alike, staring, absorbed and entranced by the glowing screen in front of them, whether they’re in the park, a playground, or a friend’s house. The phenomenon is so widespread and worrying that a US addiction expert, psychologist Dr Nicholas Kardaras, whose 2016 book, Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids-and How to Break the Trance(1) highlights the problem that results from too much screen time. He calls screen-addicted children ‘Glow Kids’, and he believes screen behaviour is having a profound effect on the brains of a whole generation.
Where Does an Addiction to Screens Lead?
Dr Kardaras says research has connected too much time in front of the screen to ADHD, depression, aggression, anxiety, and even psychosis. If you think that’s a cause for concern, get this: Dr Kardaras also says an addiction to screens can be harder to treat than an addiction to drugs.0000000000000+
And he would know, as executive director at The Dunes, a well known and respected US drug rehabilitation centre in NY. And it comes as no real surprise to learn that the number of both children and adults using screens is skyrocketing, but the figures are astounding – the average teenager in 2016 spent 11 hours in front of a screen! This can affect the brain and language skills(2), especially in children under six.
What About Children With ADHD?
Children with ADHD are more prone to over-connecting, and it’s got little to do with not being able to attention – as can be seen when they play with Lego and video games. The problem with ADHD is that those who have that kind of brain wiring have great difficulty with boredom, and if something isn’t absolutely fascinating, they just can’t seem to continue to pay it any attention. Considering the graphics, sound, colour and visual stimuli involved in a video game with all that action, instant feedback and reason to strive for the next level, it’s an ADHD kid’s heaven.
What’s the Downside of Screen Addiction in ADHD Kids?
Every bit of stimuli sends a surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, straight to the brain’s pleasure/reward centre, so it’s no wonder kids want to be on the computer/mobile/iPad as much as they can. Kids with ADHD are at a higher risk of screen addiction than those who are neurotypical,(4) and too much screen-time use is associated with many problems. Screen addicts have difficult and troubled relationships with friends and family, they suffer from fatigue, lack of sleep, and low school performance. In older children and adults with ADHD, there can be financial problems from shopping to excess, gaming, pornography and gambling, for instance.
What About Non-ADHD Kids Addicted to Screens?
There’s a lot of evidence that a TV in the child’s bedroom(2,5) increases the risk for substance abuse, obesity, and exposure to content that is sexual. Also, the way children are taught is changing due to the use of technology, and this isn’t always a good thing, with some teachers concerned that this has resulted in a generation of distracted individuals whose attention spans are shorter.
Other Concerns about Children Over-Connecting
According to an article American experts Martin L. Kutscher, MD, and Natalie Rosin, CASAMHC ‘When Your Child Over-Connects to Technology’, another area of concern when is the concept of ‘multi-tasking’, which has been touted as a good thing, however, many psychologists see switching back and forth from one task to another as just time-wasting. You can’t type text and read, drive (never!) or walk at the same time without a problem, and the constant switching of tasks takes longer than completing one task at a time. These authors believe the prevalence of Internet addiction can only be estimated, and these figures vary, but using the criteria from available research, these seem to be the statistics in the US(4):
- ADHD: can be up to 25 per cent
- Students: about 13-18 per cent
- Adolescents: about 4.7 per cent
- General Population: from 6-15 per cent
Also, you might think being a screen junkie is a problem only for kids, but you’d be wrong – one out of three adults(4) check their iPhone, tablet or mobile device before they even get out of bed in the morning.
Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Catalyst Computers.