Managing Screen Time

Working collaboratively with one’s child can decrease the struggle.

Julia Wires purchased an iPhone for her 12-year-old daughter in part she says, because many of the girls at her Potomac, Md. school have smartphones that they bring to campus daily. Wires and her husband were initially hesitant to make the purchase because their daughter was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Anxiety Disorder at the end of 2018.

“First , there’s the social pressure she feels because all of her friends have iPhones. Then there’s the issue of her dad and I being able to keep in touch with her now that she has more freedom to go places on her own,” said Wires. “Both of those [factors] are juxtaposed against the fact that she has trouble staying focused and calming down when she needs to. That made the decision tough for us.”

Too much time spent on gaming, smartphones and watching television could exacerbate symptoms in children who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, according to a new study by researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Georgia. The report showed that even after one hour of screen time, children and teens may begin to have lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks.

“Kids with ADHD have trouble keeping track of time, so they could spend hours on their tablet without realizing it. Screen time can make bedtime routines more difficult and parents might have an additional struggle getting their kids to fall asleep,” said child psychologist Adele Schwartz, Ph.D, of McLean, who was not involved in the study. “Kids with ADHD also might be more likely to ignore parental guidelines and I would worry more about them engaging in risky behavior online.”

Helping a child with ADHD transition from playing a video game to doing their homework could require special handling, advises Sarah Bryant, LCSW. “Instead of telling your child that they have to stop watching television at six o’clock or that they have five more minutes on a video game, try telling them that they have to stop at the next commercial break or at then end of the round in a video game,” she said.

Working collaboratively with one’s child will reduce the chance of a power struggle, says Bryant. “You and your child can work together to list all of the things that need to get done, like homework, time spent outside, doing sports, chores and other activities and come up with a schedule,” she said. “Figure out how much time is left for things like video games and television. Hang the schedule somewhere that’s visible to both of you. Your child will see how little time is left for playing video games and since they were part of the process, they’ll feel like they’re part of a team rather than a subordinate with no control over their life.”

“Parents of kids with ADHD should definitely make use of parental controls on tablets, smart phones and television, especially during school hours or when kids should be doing their homework,” added Schwartz. “It’s also important that children, especially those with ADHD not use electronics at least an hour before bedtime. And it almost goes without saying that parents should model the behavior that they want their children to have by limiting their own screen time.”

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