Using Video Games and Technologies in a Clinical Practice

There is a legitimate reason that many parents of kids with ADHD are concerned with their digital media use. In general, these kids appear to love their digital media time a bit more than their typically developing peers.

Kids with ADHD are more prone to excessive or addictive behaviors-screen time included. Clinicians working with the 6-8% of kids with a diagnosable Internet Gaming Disorder need to pay careful attention to these concerns and should not plan on using games and technology as a part of their treatment protocol. For many kids with ADHD, the following chart describes why video games can be a powerful tool for engagement, effort, and progress in therapy.

Kids with ADHD or Attention Difficulties: Video Games and Other Digital Media
May become easily bored and unable to sustain attention. Good video games and other digital media are often multimodal, requiring ever-changing skills and employing a variety of stimuli including video, sounds, words, and actions that help keep kids interested and engaged.
Often require reinforcement or consequence that is immediate in order to stay focused on a task. Video games provide clear and immediate feedback, constantly letting the player know what he is doing wrong and what he is doing right.
Often require that their body or mind to be actively engaged. Video games and other digital media are extremely engaging and many require physical and cognitive involvement.
Usually have problems with following directions. Video games teach by trial and error or through guided discovery, requiring the player to understand instructions in order to succeed.
May struggle to learn new information and experience frustration or low self-esteem as a result. Most negative feedback from video games and other digital media occurs privately. This causes less embarrassment and frustration while teaching the player how to handle these emotions.

Parents will often raise concerns about the involvement with technology demonstrated by their children with ADHD. If you choose to use technology in your treatment of kids with ADHD be aware of some of the cautions that you may want to discuss with parents. Here is a chart that examines some of these concerns.

Cautions Solutions
Children with ADHD or attention problems may become “hyper-focused” on video games and other digital media, neglecting other important responsibilities. Require that your child complete all of her homework, chores, or other responsibilities before being allowed some digital play time. By making him put-off these fun activities until after her work is done, he won’t be able to use digital play as a means of procrastination.
Kids with ADHD or attention problems often become so absorbed with activities they find interesting, that they may lose track of how much time they have spent on their digital play. Use a timer if you need to limit your child with ADHD.  Time management and having a sense of time are often significant deficits for children with attention problems. You can use online timers such as www.timer-tab.com or even an everyday kitchen timer to keep your child on track.
Kids with ADHD or attention problems may choose to engage with digital play instead of the physical activities that are part of a healthy treatment process. Exercise has been shown to improve Focus and learning in children with attentional problems. Tell your child to go out and run around before playing video games, and to play active games such as Wii Tennis or Kinect Adventures.

 

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