All parents have done it. Maybe you need a free minute at the bank or the grocery store or Target. Maybe you need both hands to get a start on dinner. Maybe you just need to close your eyes for two minutes. So, you do what works — you hand the kid your phone with a video or a game, and get done what needs to be done. If you're like me, the guilt eats you up afterwards. You might wonder, can playing with cell phones give your kids ADD or ADHD? With contradictory evidence on what exactly the effects of screen time on a young child can be, it's difficult to not wonder if you're doing them wrong by passing over your phone.
Because Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are both disorders without a conclusive test to diagnose, it continues to elude researchers. According to Medical News Today, ADHD is a condition of the brain that leads to a combination of poor attention, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control with a severity that interferes with functioning or development. Those who present with these symptoms without hyperactivity are considered to have ADD.
There doesn't seem to be an apparent link between gadget use and acquiring either of these disorders, as the actual cause of both ADD and ADHD remains unknown. But, researchers have been looking into possible connections.
According to a 2013 study conducted in Korea, there may be a possible link between playing games on cell phones and an increased risk of ADHD symptoms. Apparently the children who stopped using cell phones during the study period had a much sharper decline in symptoms than those who continued using cell phones. But, the study also mentioned a possible reverse causality — that the presence of severe ADHD symptoms, like inattention and hyper-focusing, leads to children spending more time playing video games.
According to The New York Times, scientists really don’t know the full neurological effects of these technologies yet. What they do know is that the brain is incredibly sensitive to stimuli like phones and iPads, and if kids spend more time interacting with devices than people, their communication and social skills could suffer. Also, controlling what your child is doing on the device can make a difference.
In related findings, a study published in The BMJ noted that children who watched more than three hours of television or videos a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms, and relationship problems by age 7. But, children who played age-appropriate games for the same amount of time showed no negative symptoms by the same age.
It's inevitable that our children will come across screens during the course of their childhood. But by minding the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines for screentime you can help you manage their device usage in a healthy way without cutting them off completely. (Because honestly, who wants that?)