I will be honest. The discussion about screen time limits with parents has always been a difficult one for me as a coach. I share parents’ concerns that children often spend too much time on electronics. The difficulty comes in finding a way to help parents understand just telling their child to unplug is not going to work. They have to engage in making this happen.
I usually start by reminding parents the ADHD brain is a stimulus seeking machine and it will take the easiest path to get that stimulation. Video games are always ready to play. They are never too tired or too busy. They have consistent, predictable rules and once your child can figure them out, they can be successful at the game. What comes from a successful repetition? DOPAMINE – that feel good chemical in our brain that also helps us focus! Parents should understand playing a video game is sometimes the only time our children can enjoy long periods of hyper focus – which feels good to the brain. This is what makes video games fun to play.
My next step is to help parents find other stimulating activities to add to their child’s play diet. Board games, puzzles, creative projects, playing an instrument, playing with friends, sports, video chatting with grandparents are all great examples. If you run out of ideas, ask your child what they want to try.
And this is where it gets hard. If your child is in the habit of going straight to screens for stimulation, you have to step in and help steer them toward one of these other activities.
- Set screen time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following limits:
- 18-24 months – only video chatting
- 2-5 years – 1 hour or less per day
- 6+ years – negotiate limits accounting for homework, physical activity, sleep
- (The Chaos Free ADHD recommendation for this age is to take at least a 1-hour break after each 1 hour played)
- Document these limits and other screen time boundaries in a Family Screen Time Contract. This helps your entire family be consistent in their screen time use. Click here to download a template for your family’s plan).
- Play with your child. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with your child. If this means getting in the floor and playing Legos, do it. If this means looking at every Pokémon card they own, do it. If this means making beaded jewelry, do it. Playing with you can generate that much desired dopamine, too!
I realize the subject of screen time is bigger than one post. Leave a comment below if you would like me to cover other aspects of this issue and I will work it in to the line up.
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