Q: Are impulsive children, or children with ADHD, more likely to develop technology addictions?
–Answers about ADHD in San Francisco, CA
A: Dear Answers,
This is a tricky subject for a very basic reason: Although diagnosed and treated as a serious problem in Asia and Europe, technology addiction, also known as video or internet addiction, is not a recognized diagnosis in the U.S. Part of the problem is that there are disagreements over the meaning of the term “addiction.” But to those struggling with these issues (with or without additional attention disorders) the name doesn’t matter—problematic use of technology can be disabling and potentially dangerous.
One 2008 study found that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely than children without ADHD to become unhealthily dependent on video games, though there is little explanation for why that might be the case. And whether exposure to electronic screen media affects kids’ attention is a question that is actively being investigated by our group and others. Recent research suggests that those who spend more time with TV or video games are more likely to have attention problems. An earlier study found that adolescents who reported playing more than one hour of electronic games per day were more likely to demonstrate inattentive behavior and symptoms of ADHD. But does playing electronic games and watching TV contribute to attention problems? Or do kids with attention problems feel more confident using predictable screen media and therefore use them more—or both? It still isn’t clear from the research.
Regardless of which way the relationship works, this is another reason to heed the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that kids over 2 use no more than 1-2 hours of screen media per day. This way you can reduce the risk that screen media use might interfere with critical developmental tasks or displace a child’s essential daily activities like sleep, physical activity, and socialization. If you’re concerned about a child’s technology use, it’s important to seek help from a physician or mental health professional who is comfortable with these issues.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,