While we don't know everything about ADHD (yet!), what we do know is that it's complex, and that we have to approach it from all directions! That includes coaching, therapy, social skills, academic support, behavioral support, medication (if that's right for YOU), nutrition, sleep, exercise…and technology?
Do You Speak Digital?
We parents – at least, most of us – are digital immigrants. That doesn't mean we haven't embraced technology or can't speak the language; it just means we don't speak it as a first language.
But our kids sure do. As digital natives, it's the norm for kids to be connected via their devices. They can really rock a tablet or a mobile device, but have you noticed that they don't necessarily know how to make a phone call?
When your teen's running late or your tween forgets her soccer gear, you're far more likely to get a text than a call. We wonder: “Why don't you just pick up the phone!” It'd save us having to put on our glasses and peck out replies to their rapid-fire messages.
But just because we called home as children, doesn't mean our kids will, too. The information is still getting passed on via text message. It's not a lack of respect or miscommunication; it's the new normal. These digital natives don't really consider it “screen time.” It's just how they live their lives!
Press the Play Button
Historically, video games were often viewed by parents as time-wasters with no redeeming values. Like marshmallow Peeps for your brain. But that's definitely changing. There are some benefits of the digital world that may be music to our ears.
Here's the good news, parents: video games can be a good fit for our kids' digital lifestyles AND their growth and development.
Research shows that electronic games can help increase attention, which many of our kids struggle with. Games provide constant feedback and novelty, which the ADHD brain craves. And having a manageable challenge and attainable goals can help motivate them to focus.
Will Social Lives Suffer?
It's a good question. Evidence is emerging that some video games can actually help our kids socialize. Mark McMahon, associate professor at Edith Cowan University (Australia) and gaming expert says:
Gamers are reaping the social benefits when their friends come over and they play computer games together. They're often strategizing, managing complex tasks and forming and managing teams.
By creating LANs (local area networks) for games like Minecraft, for instance, you can control who plays with your kid online – creating a sort of virtual recess with friends who live across town or family members who live across the country. And maybe even you – across the room! Why not? A half-hour of gaming may do you some good, too!
Healthy Doses of Screen Time
Don't get me wrong: video games aren't “treatment” by any stretch of the imagination, but when you know how to "speak digital" they can be incorporated into our kids' lives in a healthy way. How can we use video games as beneficial tools?
- Limit game time. Video game addiction is real, and it's a big concern for ADHD kids. The key to reaping the benefits without negative effects is limiting game time. Experts say that children – ADHD or not – should play less than two hours per day.
- Use it as a reward. Sometimes, parents feel guilty about rewards. We don't really want to give our kids sugar or let them watch TV after finishing homework. But now that we know videos can be helpful and beneficial, we have a reward we can feel good about – another tool in our parenting toolboxes!
- Monitor how it fits into your child's life. How long do they play? What are they playing? How close to bedtime can they play? Video games have been proven to affect sleep patterns, so be mindful of that. We can't give our kids carte blanche to play whatever, whenever they choose. It's all about moderation.
"Speak Digital" for Your Kids
The bottom line, here, is that we don't have to view video games as foreign or scary. Playing can be helpful as long as it's monitored and managed. It's not a replacement for treatment, but it can become part (the fun part!) of a comprehensive management plan. Game on!
- Texting Dominates As Teens And Young Adults Make Fewer Phone Calls
- Treating ADHD with Video Games
- Hidden Benefits of Computer Games
Great Resources for Parents
Here are a couple of resources that we highly recommend.
- Digital Parenting Kit features 5 in-depth interviews with leading global experts, parent training and coaching by ImpactParents.com, and a comprehensive Resource Guide.
- Digital Sanity Summit. In 2020, we hosted an extraordinary summit featuring in depth interviews with 21+ leading world experts on parenting and technology. Truly, it was amazing! You can purchase ALL the recordings + a really comprehensive Resource Guide for Parents in a single Digital Survival Kit!