It’s impossible to escape technology in today’s world, especially so for children. Kids are becoming more and more sedentary as their screen time with laptops, tablets and cell phones steadily increases. While technology provides many benefits for children, particularly in the classroom, there are a number of serious drawbacks to the increased number of hours children spend each day staring at a screen. A chief concern among researchers today is the relationship between screen time and ADHD.
Research indicates that excessive screen time is associated with linguistic delays and poor memory performance in children. These delays often begin before the age of two, when children learn a lot about communication by watching and emulating the facial expressions, body movements and tone of voice of people around them. Watching people on TV just doesn’t have the same impact.
The delays in language and memory are further exacerbated by the development of learning disabilities like ADHD. Research shows that there is a relationship between increased screen time and ADHD – there is an inverse relationship with attention, that is, as screen time increases, a child’s ability to pay attention decreases. The theory is that children become habituated to the fast-paced visual and auditory stimulation that TV and video games provide and eventually come to find real-world stimulation rather underwhelming – a hallmark symptom of ADHD. In that regard, the type of attention that decreases is not the kind that is needed to sit in front of a TV for hours at a time. Rather, the kind of attention that decreases with more screen time is the kind needed to be able to concentrate and pay attention in a classroom setting.
Beyond the concerns regarding attention, memory and language development associated with increased screen time are the social and emotional effects. Children with ADHD already have a difficult time interacting with and relating to their peers. But children with a lot of screen time and ADHD have even more pronounced difficulties in social situations because they are unable to read others’ reactions, recognize emotions or express their own emotions in an appropriate manner. Rejection by peers causes these children to become withdrawn, thus increasing their screen time even more and causing a vicious cycle to begin.
If your child has ADHD it is important to monitor his or her use of electronic gadgets. Experts agree that children with ADHD should not have a TV in their bedroom. Elementary-aged children shouldn’t engage in more than 45 minutes to one hour of screen time a day; older children shouldn’t go beyond two hours. When your child is engaged with a screen-based activity, monitor it closely for appropriateness of content and make yourself available to discuss what your child is watching in order to make it more interactive. Lastly, researchers recommend that physical activity closely follow screen time in order to counteract the negative effects of technology. Activities that combine the visual and balance systems are particularly helpful. For additional information about the effects of screen time and ADHD, visit https://learningbreakthrough.com/specific-challenges/digital-concerns