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Are video games linked to ADHD? The new study that parents should be cautious about

In reality, there is no real evidence to support that video games do cause ADHD. The more accurate way to describe the relationship between video games and ADHD is that video games aggravate the problems that come with the disorder. Those who have ADHD have a hard time keeping their focus on everyday tasks, but when they do manage to focus on something, they have a hard time tearing their attention away from it. So, on the one hand, they find it hard to concentrate on anything at all, and on the other hand, they find it hard to focus on anything else. The latter is known as “hyperfocus.”

Video games play on this aspect of the disorder, which is why they seem to be associated with so many ADHD cases. Since they already have trouble focusing on something that could be considered “dull” or uncomfortable, those with ADHD tend to find ways to procrastinate (and to be fair, people without ADHD do this as well). Video games keep the attention of those who play them because there’s always something happening on the screen. They keep the action going by engaging the player through music, storytelling, unique mechanics, and through a reward-and-consequence system—they don’t offer any lulls where the player’s mind can wander. In short, they’re exciting. They offer stimulation that everyday activities such as school and work don’t. When a player has trouble socializing in their public life, this stimulation is even more pronounced. Video games act as an escape for the kids who don’t have many friends at school and for adults who aren’t satisfied with what goes on in their workplace. This feeling of “escape” is only amplified for those who suffer ADHD because it’s already hard enough for them to focus on those tasks even without the problems mentioned earlier.

Anyone who has ADHD is going to have a hard time regulating themselves when it comes to activities they that find enjoyable and can actually focus on. Talking the situation over with a spouse or setting up rules for a child is the best way to get a handle on this. For instance, in the case of managing a child, set a time limit for how long they have to play for. Make it so that they have to do their homework or chores before they can play and make it so that they can only play while under supervision. The last rule should depend more on how old or responsible your child is. You’re trying to treat video games as a reward; you’re not trying to punish anyone for playing them.

How you handle a set of rules between you and your spouse should be easier since they’ve more than likely lived with the condition long enough to know how to handle it. For them, the only stipulation, if any should be needed, should be a reasonable time limit. No matter what you plan on doing, sit down and talk about it with whomever you’re going to be enforcing the rules upon. If you help them to understand why you are setting rules in the first place, then they’re more likely to follow them. Be sure to also let them know the consequences for not following the rules.

The best way to implement the time-limit rule is to get a visible timer, one that acts as an alarm whenever play time is up. The timer is for you, and the alarm is for them. You use the visible timer to give your child timely warnings about how much time they have left. About five to ten minutes before time is up, tell them to save their game or finish up whatever they’re doing online, this way they’ll be ready to stop once the alarm goes off. Let your child know that you’re willing to give them more play time if they show initiative in getting off the game themselves.

The best way to enforce the rule of supervision would be to set the game system up in the living room instead of in their room. By doing it this way, you avoid any night-time or secret shenanigans. You can take the controller to the console of whatever they’re playing with you when time runs out if you feel it necessary. If the game their playing is on a handheld device, it’s best to take that with you every time until you think your child is responsible enough to handle having it after the time limit is up. Don’t get angry if your child chooses to break the rules or dismiss them. Instead, remind them of the consequences you went over with them originally, and if they continue to play after the fact, go ahead and enforce said consequences. One good consequence is to take the game away from them for a few days and increase the duration of time with every new offense. The same concept as “grounding” them, if you will. The goal is to treat getting to play the game, like a game itself by creating a similar reward-and-consequence system.

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