1. Guide them, don’t threaten.
What your child or teen needs most is guidance from you–not threats or punishments for managing how they interact with the digital world. Neither punishing nor separating tweens and teens from their phones will produce the results you are looking for because these disciplinary acts don’t teach any skills. Plus, separating kids from their phones can actually result in social isolation and alienation from peers which nobody wants either. So, what is a concerned parent or caregiver to do when they are only trying to help? Keep reading for more tips.
2. Recall the ADHD fundamentals.
Start by recalling the basic biology and fundamental characteristics of ADHD. Kids with ADHD often struggle with impulse control, emotional regulation and following directions due to a delay in the prefrontal cortex maturity and challenge with several executive functioning skills simultaneously.
While neurodivergent kids and teenagers (those with ADHD, LD, 2E and ASD) may struggle to concentrate on or complete tasks they dislike, they can perform very well and focus for a long time on activities they like. Such as social media and video games. This differential attention is a core aspect of ADHD and its related to naturally lower amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Pings, colors, and quick, easily achievable levels of achievement seen in online games, Snapchat, or other apps activate novelty detectors in the dopamine pathways in our brains. These pathways manage attention, pleasure, and addiction. It’s easier for people with ADHD to become totally engaged in their digital activities because the technology generates the dopamine–pleasure, satisfaction and reward systems–their brains lack.
It’s much tougher to stop high-dopamine pursuits because nothing else seems as fun, captivating, or compelling. Who wants to stop gaming or scrolling through Instagram to set the table for dinner and then eat the meal? Probably not your youngster with ADHD.
3. Watch out for social comparisons.
Some of the most serious consequences of the digital world are social comparisons. Social media and the digital world frequently lead kids to create unrealistic personal expectations that can be inspiring or destructive to their mental health. While it’s a natural part of teen identity formation to compare yourself to others and look for similarities and contrasts, often kids with ADHD who already feel a greater sense of insecurity believe they just don’t measure up.
Research has found that adolescents who already suffer from low self-esteem or mild depression are more likely to make frequent social media comparisons that negatively affect their well-being and mental health. Avoid that by implementing a balanced media diet.