Which came first, a fixation with screens or ADHD?

Experts are saying that the problems associated with ADHD may be a self-perpetuating loop. In a recent New York Times article, “Fixated by Screens, but Seemingly Nothing Else,” Dr. Perri Klauss addresses the issue of screen time and those with ADHD.

Many parents who are encouraged by their student’s teacher to get them tested for ADHD are confused by the diagnosis, saying their child can sit in front of a television or play a video game for hours. To be consumed by television and video games and not anywhere else, however, is a characteristic of ADHD that many experts have been interested in understanding.

It’s believed by experts that children with ADHD actually spend more time at the television than their peers. But, the attention they give to a screen is not the kind of attention they need for school or other real life situations, says Dr. Christopher Lucas at New York University School of Medicine. “It’s not sustained attention in the absence of rewards,” he said. “It’s sustained attention with frequent intermittent rewards.”

In a recent Edutopia blog, neurologist and teacher Judy Willis made the case that video games were among the best learning tools because the gamer is rewarded by doses of dopamine. When students guess right, dopamine is released and they have a “powerful pleasure response.” Students are motivated to keep learning/playing so they can be further rewarded.

It’s believed that children with ADHD play more video games because their “dopamine reward circuitry may be otherwise deficient.” One study found when children with ADHD were prescribed Ritalin, they played less video games, suggesting video games were a form of self-medication.

But research is also finding that playing video games might lead to ADHD. When children are exposed to fast-paced stimulation, they may find real life understimulating.

Another loop experts are worried about is that those with ADHD have a harder time identifying why events happen. This is one reason why those with ADHD have difficult social problems. When these kids don’t socially fit in, they might revert to video game where mastery of their world comes easier.

 

References:

  • Fixated by Screens, but Seemingly Nothing Else http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/health/views/10klass.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.mc_id=HL-SM-E-FB-SM-LIN-SFA-051011-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click
  • A neurologist makes the case for the video game model as a learning tool, by Judy Willis MD – http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis
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