If you have a child with ADHD, you know how difficult social interactions can be for them. My son has ADHD and I know firsthand about the challenging and awkward times he’s had in social situations. If raising a teen today isn’t hard enough, throw into the mix not being able to control impulses and the inability to recognize non-verbal cues. Now add the Internet, social networks and video or online games. Teens with ADHD might have more trouble being accepted by their peers, and may tend to be loners or seek shelter at home. They may isolate themselves and instead seek gratification and stimulation from the Internet or video games.
My son is no stranger to video games. If he could, he would play 24/7. For him, this is his social playground. He can find friends from school online and play a game with them. No longer does he have to only engage in face-to-face contact or need to try and fit into a conversation. This medium is a way for him to reach out and communicate, but parents of children with ADHD need to make sure not to overdo it with game time or online use.
According to a 2009 study of more than 2,000 seventh graders published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, boys and girls with ADHD were more likely to be addicted to the Internet (particularly online gaming and chatting) than teens without the disorder. Kids with ADHD get easily bored and thrive on instant gratification, such as that provided by online gaming or chatting. When online, teens with ADHD can go to multiple sites and engage in a variety of activities all at once.
Scientists believe teens with ADHD may have a dopamine deficiency, which can be counteracted by the dopamine produced while playing online games. Due to abnormal brain activity, teens with ADHD lack self-control, making it difficult for them to control their Internet use and leaving them more susceptible to Internet addiction. In our household, we make sure to limit time spent online. The average recommended times that I’ve found from a number of resources seem to be one hour. Don’t get me wrong – we do tend to go over that time, or sometimes we cut it off sooner. And we make sure the gameplay occurs on weekends and not during the school week. Keeping your child active in things such as sports or other clubs and lessons can help direct the attention from game time to practicing much needed face-to-face social interactions as well as team building skills. The Internet can be a wonderful tool but, as always, too much of a good thing is not completely beneficial.