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, everything is full-on, you can’t blame kids for wanting to do it. We all know that too much of a good thing can end up being bad for us. 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 addiction to screens can be harder to treat than an addiction to drugs. Who knew?
Well, he would know, as executive director at The Dunes, a well known and respected US drug rehabilitation centre in NY. It comes as no surprise to learn the number of both children and adults using screens is skyrocketing, however, 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. This has little to do with attention deficit as can be seen when they play with Lego and video games. The problem with ADHD is those who have that kind of brain wiring, also have difficulty with boredom. So if something isn’t absolutely fascinating, they just can’t seem to focus long enough to pay any attention. Considering the graphics, sound, colour and visual stimuli involved in a video game trying 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. It’s no wonder kids want to be on ‘screens’ as much as they can. Kids with ADHD are at higher risk of screen addiction than those who are neurotypical. Too much screen-time use is associated with many problems for all of us. Screen addicts have difficult and troubled relationships with friends and family. Typically they suffer from fatigue, lack of sleep, and low school performance. In older children and adults, financial problems from excessive shopping, gaming, pornography and gambling, can occur.
What About Non-ADHD Kids Addicted to Screens?
Research proves that TV in a child’s bedroom increases the risk of substance abuse, obesity, and exposure to sexual content. Also, the way children are taught is changing due to the use of technology. Teachers are concerned that technology is resulting in generations of distracted individuals with short attention spans.
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 is ‘multi-tasking’. This was, in the past, touted as a good thing, however, many psychologists see switching back and forth from one task to another as time-wasting. You can’t type text or read, and drive (never!). It’s difficult to learn while you listen/watch a movie. Science has proven to constantly switch between tasks results in not completing either satisfactorily. And it takes longer. Internet addiction can only be estimated and the figures vary, but using the available research, US statistics are:
- ADHD: is up to 25 per cent
- Students: about 13-18 per cent
- Adolescents: about 4.7 per cent
- General Population: from 6-15 per cent
You might think being a screen junkie is a problem only for kids. No, one out of three adults(4) check their iPhone, tablet or mobile device before they get up 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.