We hear it from frustrated parents: Why is it that my child, who finds it almost impossible to stay in his chair and focus on the lesson at school, can nonetheless sit in front of a video screen, transfixed, for hours? He fits all the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — except when he’s playing video games. And when you tell him to stop and come to dinner, you’d better be prepared for pushback.
Seeing this combination of behaviors prompts parents to wonder several things: 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?
Let’s take these one at a time.
First, “there is no evidence whatsoever that TV or video games cause ADHD,” explains Dr. Natalie Weder, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute who has treated many kids with the disorder. That said, super-fast-paced TV shows and video games do have a special appeal for kids who have ADHD.
“If you think about SpongeBob, or a video game, there’s never a second when there’s nothing happening on the screen,” Dr. Weder notes. “If you’re playing a video game, you have to immediately respond; otherwise you lose. You don’t have time to think. So kids with ADHD are very drawn to that — here are no gaps for them to start thinking about something else.”
Bursts of attention
Video games effectively hold the attention of kids who find it very challenging to concentrate in the rest of their lives. But what’s happening when kids are absorbed in video games isn’t the same kind of paying attention that other tasks require.
Source: Child Mind Institute