Does playing video games actually cause ADHD? Does it make it worse? Or does the intense focus this child brings to video games suggest that he doesn’t have ADHD after all?
Special appeal with Bursts of attention
First, there is no evidence whatsoever that TV or video games cause ADHD. That said, super-fast-paced TV shows and video games do have a special appeal for kids who have ADHD.
Video games effectively hold the attention of kids who find it very challenging to concentrate in the rest of their lives.
But continuous activity doesn’t mean sustained attention. The task is changing so rapidly, short bursts of attention are all that’s involved. These games are constantly shifting focus, and there is instant gratification and reward.
Controlling game time is key
Are these games addictive for children with ADHD, since presumably they trigger the release of dopamine? “Only in the sense that any pleasure is addictive,” says most of the specialists. “Anything that makes you feel good drives the same circuit path.”
That isn’t to say that kids spending an unlimited amount of time playing these games isn’t harmful, but it’s a different kind of harm. The problem is that all that screen time means time not spent doing other things more valuable for their development, including interacting with family and friends.
Since social skills are a challenge for many kids with ADHD, who have trouble paying attention and reining in their impulsivity, the cost can be high. But of course this is an burning for all children nowadays, not just for children with ADHD. Parents: controlling game time is key!