Screen time has increased dramatically for most people in the last year. New efficiencies are undeniable — as are new risks of video game dependence, Zoom fatigue, and poor mental health.

Zoom is not a hammer. Instagram is not a shovel. Your iPad is not a screwdriver. We call these technologies “tools,” but they don’t perform a discrete function and then hibernate in the shed. These screens exert a powerful and sometimes nefarious influence on the ADHD brain.

The wins and likes of video games and social media deliver the potent hits of dopamine that ADHD brains crave, a biological need also satisfied — albeit momentarily — by an impulsive Amazon purchase or a hilarious TikTok video. But the ADHD brain is never satisfied. Five hours of Fortnite today will not satiate; it will demand more tomorrow. Video game and social media dependence are dominant concerns today.

Technology Is Not a Passive Force on ADHD Brains

Many people have praised technology for softening hard times, but they note it can be a curse for the toll it’s taken on their family members’ mental and physical health. The price of productivity, convenience, and safety — being able to learn, work, socialize, and shop while remaining socially distant — is high and still rising.

Nearly 85% of caregivers surveyed reported behavioral changes in their children with ADHD during the pandemic — a period when screen time has increased for 90% of families. The ratio of negative to positive behavioral changes is 4 to 1, with parents reporting heightened emotional dysregulation, diminished motivation for school and non-screen activities, lethargy, and greater frustration and anger — particularly when forced to transition off of a screen to a less-desired activity.

Parents are not only feeling concerned; they are feeling guilty. Working from home alongside remote learners, they rely on screens not only to educate their children but to occupy and entertain them during the business day. Cutting the cord is simply not an option for working parents, who are all too aware of technology’s double edge.

How Technology Can Promote Lethargy and Sleep Problems

Only a slim fraction of children with ADHD are able to participate in organized sports now. Most caregivers report that basketball, soccer, karate, and swimming have all been canceled for more than a year. In that time, nearly 40% of caregivers report that technology has had a negative impact on their child’s physical health; only 13% reported a positive impact.

Some survey respondents said their kids are enjoying online yoga and dance classes, Outschool sports programs, or their “Ring Fit” on Nintendo Switch. But the majority of caregivers reported a daily battle to induce any physical activity whatsoever. “Why go outside when his friends’ faces are on a screen?” asked one mother of a 9-year-old with ADHD in Arizona.

When children and adolescents with ADHD don’t move their bodies, the opposite is often true: Their self-control and inhibitions falter, leading to even more screen use — which quickly begins to steal time from school, homework, hobbies, and sleep. The unhealthy behaviors feed on one another and descend into a spiral.

Technology as a Vital Social Bridge

The social pull of technology, for teens as well as younger children, is huge. With in-person school, sports, and club activities on hiatus across large swaths of the country, most social interaction today is happening on screens. Platforms like Discord allow gamers to chat with friends they could not otherwise see, Instagram and TikTok allow teens to feel less isolated, and texting delivers instant gratification and consolation. The power to connect friends across town and across time zones is one of technology’s greatest assets, according to survey respondents.

Fifty-nine percent of caregivers said technology has been useful and helpful in connecting their children to friends and family members during the pandemic. Many cited FaceTime with grandparents, virtual holiday gatherings, and gaming with buddies as highlights for their kids — especially those with social anxiety or shyness.

Neurofeedback Therapy for ADHD

Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback treatments. Neurofeedback may be helpful if you have problems with issues stemming from ADHD. The easy, noninvasive treatment can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life.

Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth today and find out how we can help you.

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