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ADHD in Children Health Center

ADHD and Video Games

Are video games a problem for people with ADHD?
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Potential Time Management Problem continued...

The findings were somewhat different for the young women with ADHD who Tolchinsky studied. Their video game problems appeared to be more broadly related to ADHD symptoms. The women also reported fewer game-related problems overall and logged half as many game play hours per week as their male classmates.

"Time management seems to have a moderating influence on how problematic video game play becomes," Tolchinsky says. That is, it's not that much of a problem if it's not wrecking your schedule.

For anyone who has or is familiar with ADHD, that should be no surprise. 

"Time management is particularly important for individuals with ADHD," Tolchinsky says. "It's helpful for treating problematic game play, but it is also important for quality of life."

How to Set Limits

"Parents have to set limits, they have to set a certain time to cut the games off," says psychologist Lisa Efron, PhD. She directs the Hyperactivity, Attention, and Learning Problems Clinic at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "We know that kids do better with structure, and that's especially true for kids with ADHD ."

She advises parents to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that kids spend no more than 1 to 2 hours in front of the screen. That includes any and all screens: game device, TV, or computer. Kids (with or without ADHD) shouldn't spend more than 2 hours per day with all of those gadgets, combined.

She's concerned about what kids who can't, or won't, set aside their game consoles may be missing, such as developing their social skills or self-control. 

"You have to think about what are the things they are not doing," Efron says. "What skills would they be learning if they were not playing Angry Birds?"

For young children, she says, parents must set and enforce limits. High schoolers may need less supervision. "Give them some input and see how they do," Efron says.

Make It a Reward

If you have a child with ADHD who likes playing video games, use those games as a reward for completing other tasks, such as homework, recommends psychologist Mark Stein, PhD.

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