Are Video Games Good for Your Child?

A new study found a correlation, not causation, between children with happy and balanced lives and playing video game for an hour or less per day. What I find irritating about this study is that this is common sense and yet someone paid lots of money to fund “scientists” to figure this out. Yes, for the most part, children who do not bury themselves in video games are leading more balanced and healthy lives. Rather than squatting in front of a screen, they are out at the ball field, going to camps, hanging out with friends, and having a life. These children are not following the sedentary trend that grips the Western world.

But video games are not creating their sense of well-being. Rather, playing for short periods is what one would expect to find in the life of a child who has other activities going on. So, if your child has social-skill deficits, suffers from hyperactivity, and has few outside interests that engage him or her, your child is more likely to be a problem video gamer, i.e., play an average of more than three hours a day. The games do not create the problem; your child’s brain does. But the gaming behavior can make underlying difficulties worse. Children with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome are, for example at a much higher risk for become problem gamers, but the gaming does not create these neurobiologically-driven conditions!

If your child has a social skill deficit and spends four hours a day by himself, in front of a screen, then the problem will get worse. If your child struggles with impulsivity and waiting his or her turn, placating your child by parking him or her in front of a PlayStation will not help the situation. As any good parent knows, your child needs to learn how to get along with others. Your child also needs to be physically active, both to put him or her on a long-term positive health trajectory and to help him or her lead a balanced life. Your child also needs to learn to work hard, and to delay a small, short-term reward, for a longer-term, but much larger one. Excessive video gaming can get in the way of all these development steps.

Video games are great, in moderation. They can help with eye-hand coordination, visual-spatial acuity, and can even make learning fun. When a child plays video games in excess, however, behavioral problems are probably already present. Video games are the great escape for today’s troubled children, but they usually make their problems worse. The logic holds for smart phones too. Excess gaming is a sign that some deeper issue is present. So when your child starts to exhibit excess interest in gaming, it might be time to get professional help.

When parents call me, they are usually at the end of their rope, dealing with a teenager who is already a full-fledged addict. It is best to start modeling healthy tech behavior when your children are young. Consider tackling this issue as a family by following my top five technology tips.

Kevin’s Top Five Family Technology Tips
1. Have at least some tech-free time as a family. Don’t allow smart phones at the dinner table, for example.
2. In addition to tech-free time, have tech-free zones. Many families I work with choose to use the family room for this purpose. Cell phones, video game consoles, laptops, iPads, and computers are not allowed in there.
3. Set a maximum time allowed on video games and the computer. I recommend no more than two hours a day.
4. For each minute spent on the computer or video game, require a corresponding minute of exercise. This will allow you to combat the tendency for technology to create sedentary and obese children.
5. No TV’s, computers, or video game consoles in the bedroom.

A Teen Speaks out on ADHD

This post is written by a 14-year-old young man with ADHD.  In this short piece, he tries to give you a sense of how it feels, and how he tried to compensate.

Do you have ADD or ADHD?  If you have ADHD or ADD, then you probably wouldn’t want to put in the effort to read this.  ADHD is a more progressed and inconvenient form of ADD.  ADHD has both good and bad aspects infused in it.  ADHD often causes you to be very hyperactive, and gives you the burden of not being able to focus on a single task.  You can compare ADHD to unique personalities in that no one has the exact same case of ADHD that someone else has.  Everyone has aspects about themselves that nearly no one knows about, and they usually try to hide them.  The majority of people know that I have ADHD, but nearly no one knows how it affects me.  For whoever reads this, I would like to you know what ADHD is, and know that since no one is perfect, you do not need to feel ashamed of who you are.

I was most likely diagnosed with ADHD at birth, but it probably progressed after a series of events during my lifetime.  I was given a very controversial chicken pox shot before I was 3, and the dose was far too strong.  This made many things go wrong in my brain, and I could not fix it.  I also hit the back of my head on concrete at a very high speed when I was sent flying out of a trampoline, and this made even more problems in my brain.  The problem is that certain parts of your brain contain the brain cells that affect how hyperactive and smart you are.  When I woke up, I had a popsicle in my hand, and a cat on my lap.  I was happy when I woke up, but I had a raging headache, and my vision was gone for a short amount of time.  Probably the worst instance of brain damage in my life was when I was in Mexico with my family and friends.  My friend and I were wrestling on a bed, and before I knew what happened, I felt something hard and brittle scraping my vertebrae, and I blacked out.

When I woke up, I found out that I nearly had my spine broken, and I was very lucky that I lived.  I had a scar all the way up my back until I entered 8th grade, and whenever I was reminded of it, I became even more grateful that I am alive.

My form of ADHD causes my motor skills to perform differently than a person without ADHD.  For example, when I move my sight to focus on a new object, my head will automatically follow, unless I remind myself not to do that.  One good part of having ADHD is that you react to things much faster than usual.  When I’m trying to focus on a single task, I have difficulty staying on track with what I’m doing.  Multi-tasking usually helps me to focus more.  For example, chewing gum while doing my homework is a good way for me to focus better.  Another problem I have with ADHD is how I “zone out”.  Zoning out is basically daydreaming, but you leave your eyes looking at something that usually shouldn’t be looked at.  My zoning out with ADHD is what inspired the title of my essay.

In elementary school I didn’t really know that I had ADHD.  I had fun in elementary school.  I was fairly calm at recess, but I was rather crazy in the classroom.  That’s because at recess I felt at home because of the huge number of things going on at once.  In class, when I had to buckle down and do one assignment at one time, it was far more boring, I got off-task, and I got hyper again.  The teachers didn’t like this behavior.  They all gave ideas for help but none of them really worked.  My 5th grade teacher, Ms. Smith, was maybe one of the only teachers that really understood me inside.  She felt that I could grow up to be a kind, respectful and understanding man.  Still doesn’t mean she liked my hyperactive behavior, though!

When I entered 6th grade at Jefferson Middle School, I had no tactic to counter my ADHD.  I’m going to take mercy on you, and spare the details, but while I was going to Jefferson, all my friends from elementary school were at a different middle school, Washington.  Halfway through the 6th grade, I began to use a medication for my ADHD.  I began with a small dose of Concerta (18 mg.), and by 7th grade I was up to 36 mg.  Even on medication, I still have a lot of trouble controlling how I act.  It’s also hard to focus on a task, even if I’m on my medication.