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Parents of ADHD Children

How much "screen time" do you allow your ADHD child?

Hi folks, what a resource this site/group is!  So thankful.  I wondered how much screen time (TV, video games, ipod..) folks tend to let their ADHD child have during school days and weekends.

It seems my child just craves it, and can’t even stop himself when he’s had WAY too much. We found him in bed with his iPod the other night watching kids playing Minecraft on YouTube instead of sleeping. Been there for 3 hours.

The more he has it, the more the impulsivity and hyperactivity pumps up. But he says it helps him chill out and relax. Feel bad to take it away completely so we provide it with limits- but it’s a constant battle over when he can have screen time and for how long. He’s starting to loose interest in other things he usually loves and becoming very cranky. Frustrated.

Thoughts and advice appreciated!


It all depends on what type of technology you are talking about. We have been experiencing a lot of really cold snowy weather lately. So, I have been generous. Since we have an X-Box Connect, where your body is the controller, and you have to move it to play the game; I have been allowing my son an hour of play per day. This is allowed only after homework is completed. I also allow him to watch one PBS kid’s show per day. He is also a huge audio book fan. After he reads aloud to me in evening, he can listen to his audio book for 30 minutes. Finally, we do math and reading practice on a tablet, but I don’t count that part.

Hope this information is helpful to you.
Susan in PC,OH

Posted by SueH on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:11pm

My son too is obsessed by screens, of any type but I do stay firm with the limits. He is 12 and has homework to do and he also swims a great deal so during the school week he only is allowed 2 hours time once on a school night and only after homework. I use this as an incentive and stick to the routine. Weekends he also has 2 hours, sometimes a little longer each day but again after homework. I also tell him it is not his right to them, he must earn them and good behaviour warrants it. I use it as a sanction during conflict and stick to it. I also brought an 11ft trampoline and he goes crazy on it after the sessions which helps him..come down….after being on them. They are a useful tool, but very frustrating as my son too hides and sneaks them in his room. I just have to stay ahead of him and keep trying to trust him every now and then. That said he hasn’t yet managed to have his ipod in his room and leave it to charge yet and he’s had 3 attempts! They drive me nuts, but know it is another thing he and us have to learn to live with. Keep going…you are doing a good job…stay strong and follow through. Good luck and so understand where you are coming from.

Posted by mtb68 on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:11pm

I struggle with this topic, too.  My son is 8 and I’ve always recognized that screen time just amped him up, ever since he was a baby.  So we’ve been highly restrictive with it until this year.  It used to be he would get no screen time at all on weekdays and then a few hours on Sat and Sun only.  But two things happened: 1) we got a Wii U (our first gaming system) and 2) they started an iPad initiative in our schools.  So now part of his homework IS on the screen.  So we can’t limit it as strictly as we used to.

So!  I’m moving the family computer from the office in the basement to a public area of the house where I can keep an eye on what he’s doing when he uses it.  I’m going to set him up with his own account that is EXTREMELY locked down so that he can only use websites that I approve and won’t be able to install software.

I’m also starting to believe that the quality of the screen time makes a big difference.  There are TONS of educational tools out there, and I don’t want to deprive him access to them if they will help.  But I have to be vigilant and on top of what he’s using and how it’s impacting his learning and behavior.  I’m still weary of the screen time, but there’s no getting away from it.  So I think it’s best to start teaching him how to handle it, and hopefully when to put it down.  He’s gonna need to learn to do that sooner or later anyway.

Posted by cborn on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:53pm

We try to do an hour of video games per day… after all homework and assuming certain things are done first, like chores, etc.  We had one of the best days in a long while today because I told my son (11) that he needed to be out of bed by a certain time or he’d lose video games.  He lost them yesterday so it was good motivation today.  (That doesn’t always work to get him up, but today it did.)

Then my ADHD son (the 11) might get an hour of TV in the evening.  We try to have at least half an hour before bed with no screens so he can get to sleep.

He’s also sneaked his games into his bed, so now checking that they’re all downstairs in the game box before bed is part of the routine.  (Consequences don’t work, so better to just make sure and save everyone the heartache.)

Weekends they can play until we wake up.  Being able to sleep in sometimes is what helps us through the week.  wink

My oldest son (16, not ADHD) would play forever if we let him.  The youngest (11) won’t stop to eat and then ends up cranky or with a migraine, so we have rules about him having a snack before he can play, etc. Some kids are able to walk away on their own, most can’t so some sort of external regulation is important.  And if they’re a negative thing, I’d limit them even more.  (This coming from someone who loves screen time too much too.)

Posted by Rai0414 on Jan 21, 2014 at 9:59pm

My almost-12 year old has almost no screen time during the school week unless it involves using the computer for school.  On the weekend he earns time on his DS or on the family computer if he 1) completes his chores 2) exercises before he play (runs, bikes, etc.) and 3) has demonstrated acceptable behavior (no hitting, tantrums, defiance, etc.).  Like others have observed in their children, my son is also highly addicted to screens and yet it causes him to become very dysregulated so we are very strict about his access.  He is allowed to watch some sports on TV as well as videos/movies with parental supervision.  It is very hard in this media-saturated world to monitor it but we have seen the harm it can do to him and our whole family if we don’t.

Posted by krtsinohio on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:04pm

my son plays game for HOURS on his Kindle, we try to make sure they are stimulating and somewhat educational games…he needs the stimulation because I can not be his round the clock entertainer as he wants…he watches some tv but prefers his Kindle. He is an A+ student and I make sure he moves around too so as his parent I am ok with this even though books say NOOOO ...

Posted by 3adhdboys on Jan 22, 2014 at 3:23am

Hi MusicMom!

Your post sounds like you are describing my son. He loves those videos of other kids playing the games on YouTube. I don’t get it! He also hides electronics under his pillows, but he does it because turning on Mythbusters on netflix helps him fall asleep. I still take them out of his room though.

I lean more toward @3adhdboys viewpoint and don’t restrict my son’s technology use as much for a few reasons:

1) We are quite strict about the games he is allowed to play. They cannot be violent and usually require strategy and/or critical thinking (Zelda, Animal Farm, Minecraft…). He used to be really into the Lego superhero games, but he’s more into Minecraft and Minecraft-type games now.

2) My son is really good with technology. He has learning disabilities with his ADHD and so much of his day reinforces his weaknesses and struggles—I feel good letting him do something he gains confidence from.

3) Yes, he spends too much time on electronics sometimes, but he does lots of other things as well. He loves to play legos, he is in boy scouts, and he has a friend right across the street that he plays with often. In fact, his friend was over for 1.5 hours yesterday, and they played legos for the majority of the time, not electronics. He he only chose electronics all the time, I’d be more restrictive.

4) technology is the way of the world and I imagine my son could have a career in technology someday.

If your child is really into electronics, try to harness it for good with active, educational, and/or critical thinking uses for the time they are permitted to use them. As well, some programs can help with ADHD, as discussed in the article, “Build Focus in ADHD Children Through Video Games,”

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jan 22, 2014 at 6:43pm

I have completely eliminated cable at home. Every time my daughter sat to watch anything kid friendly even things on nickelodeon channels it had to do with boyfriend-girlfriends, kissing, dating or violence.  She is easily influenced (she tried to kiss both of her boy cousins on separate occasions trying to replicate something she saw on a Nick show)

One time we were scrolling through channels and bumped into 2 girls making out & of course my remote controller batteries decided to die that very instant,  so it was a horrific moment with an ADHD child we had crying, screaming complete melt down so since that day I we have been cable free. 

I like to control what she watches so we have Netflix & Hulu.  She only watches child friendly movies usually older ones like “Look whos talking now” or shows like “Full house”

  I signed her up for Salsa & Hip Hop Classes on Saturday & Swimming on Sundays to keep her busy.

By the time we get home from work & after school its already almost 7pm or even 8pm pm if we have a therapy session so we don’t really have time for tv anyways.

I let her fit in a movie or a show right before bedtime even if its past her bed time just for a few minutes to unwind and to reward her & on the weekends I do the same but she spends a lot more time on it she spends most of the time before leaving watching a movie.

In the morning before school I let her watch her shows if she is ready on time & that has been working as a way of getting out the door on time.  It doesn’t always get her out the door without a fight but at least works for the most part. 

I think in general its a good tool to navigate the direction you want things to go. 

I grew up glued to the tube I will be honest in my home there was a TV in every room even kitchen ( not kidding)  We also had every game system that came out in the market but now a days the things on tv are just not good for them. 

We don’t have a gaming system at home she had the Wii at one point but its no longer working she was only allowed to use that on weekends.

Posted by Lovingmom1119 on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:34pm

Ages 5 and 7.
We start at 30 minutes, give them some options to earn some extra time as they complete housework, chores, reading, and outside play time.

Usually never more than 45 or 60 minutes on a weekday. Some educational apps excluded.

Posted by Dr. Eric on Jan 25, 2014 at 5:15am

My 13 yr old ADHD son is also addicted to anything with a screen.  Since Christmas it has been has been his smartphone.  If he’s not texting, he’s watching YouTube videos.  After many conversations with him, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of his friends that he talks to are from Xbox Live, facebook,ect. I think he finds these friendships are easier to manage than face-to-face because he has more control and can always cut them off if he becomes irritated.  I try to limit him during the week but it is his favorite way to chill.

Posted by Lulu41 on Feb 02, 2014 at 7:56pm

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