Should You Get Your Child or Teen with ADHD a Video Game Console So They Can Socialize with Their Friends During Covid-19?

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

For kids who are currently living through COVID confinement in video game-free homes, begging and pleading for a video game console of their very own seems to have reached an all-time high. Many parents, who up to this point have held firm in their video game resistance, are considering “giving in” and buying their children the video games they crave. The parents I’m hearing from are primarily being swayed by concerns for their children’s social life. With social interactions so limited right now, parents don’t want their children to be left out of the socializing that’s happening through video games.

There is truly no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether or not to bring a video game console into your home. In general, parents don’t need to worry that they’ll be doing serious harm if they allow their child or teen to play video games. Research suggests that playing age-appropriate video games in moderation (about 1-2 hours a day) will not harm a child’s cognitive development.

There are also some very real social benefits to playing video games with friends, especially right now. So, letting your child get the video game console they have always wanted could be a good thing. That said, setting limits around video games is undoubtedly harder for parents of kids and teens with ADHD. While playing video games (in moderation of course) won’t harm your child, struggles around limit-setting have the potential to create substantial stress for your family.  

As you decide whether to buy a video game console for your child with ADHD, consider the following:

  • Are you currently able to effectively set screen time limits with your child? Many kids with ADHD struggle with screen time limits on non-video game screens. When video games are added to the mix, setting limits can be even harder. If you are currently able to have your child follow screen time rules without too much conflict, then you will probably have the same success when it comes to video games. If screen time is a struggle now, solve this problem before you bring video games into your home. Create a screen time plan for your child and make sure they can follow it for at least two weeks (preferably four weeks) without much conflict before you consider buying a video game console.
  • Does your child hyperfocus on screens? Many kids with ADHD hyperfocus when they are interacting with screens (with the exception of online schoolwork, when, unfortunately, the opposite is often true). If your child or teen really struggles to shift their attention away from a screen when they are watching videos or playing games on a tablet, then expect this challenge to be even greater when your child is playing video games with their friends.
  • Does your child struggle to regulate their emotions, especially when they are transitioning off of screens? Many kids with ADHD struggle to regulate their emotions throughout the day, and the transition off of screens can be a major trigger. For kids who become dysregulated when screens are turned off, you see a major shift in behavior – they may become angry, oppositional, and sometimes even aggressive. If this happens to your child or teen now, you can expect that it will be even worse when they are transitioning off of video games.
  • Are you willing to set firm video game limits and take the console away if your child or teen doesn’t follow your screen time rules? In order for most kids and teens with ADHD to stick to video game rules, they need their parents to set firm limits and use consequences consistently. This means that if your child or teen does not follow the rules you’ve laid out for them, then you need to be willing to take away their video game privileges for a period of time (and deal with your child or teen’s negative reaction).
  • Are you able (and willing) to research age-appropriate video games and monitor your child’s social interactions while they are gaming? Just like you keep your kids safe online by making sure they are only accessing age-appropriate content and are safely interacting with others via social media and other sites, you’ll need to make sure your child or teen is playing age-appropriate games and is having safe and positive social interactions while gaming.

    Websites like theEntertainment Software Rating Board's game ratings and Common Sense Media provide the information you’ll need to determine which games are appropriate for your child, but doing the research takes time (and you may need to say ‘no’ to your child if they want a game that you don’t approve of). Monitoring your child or teen’s social gaming activity also takes time and comes with a learning curve. So, be honest with yourself about whether this is something you can reasonably take on right now.

Many kids and teens are spending a lot of time socializing via video games while we are all practicing social distancing, and allowing your child or teen to join in the fun may help reduce their feelings of social isolation. If your child or teen has ADHD, be prepared to establish firm gaming rules before the console arrives at your home and enforce these limits with the consistent use of consequences.


 

ABOUT DR. MARY ROONEY

Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.

ABOUT HUNTINGTON

Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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