Setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD might sometimes feel impossible. As a parent with a child with ADHD, you might find that it seems that your child only wants to play video games. In fact, a recent survey shows that nearly all kids, with or without ADHD, play video games. They play them when they wake up in the morning, when they get home from school, and before they go to bed. Getting them to take a break even for meals might present challenges.
We have known and seen for a while now that kids with ADHD have an attraction to video games. They not only love to play them, many times they find they perform well at them. For parents, this can be both good and bad. For instance, studies have shown that video games may enhance learning overall. Then again, sitting in front of screens and TVs all day can impact sleep habits and lead to poor general health.
As the parent, you don’t want to not let your kids do what they enjoy. At the same time, you know you have to teach them to find and set the right balance. In this post, we want to talk in-depth about setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD. How much is too much? How much is just right? What could work well for your household? We want to explore these questions by first looking at the reasons for setting limits and then at strategies for setting limits well.
Reasons for Setting Limits on Video Game Use for Kids with ADHD
First, before you start setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD, you need to think over why you need limits to begin with. Many parents automatically assume that just playing video games can be bad for kids. Science, though, doesn’t necessarily back that up.
In many ways, video games can provide benefits for children especially those with ADHD. Video games can encourage creativity and teach new concepts and problem solving. Furthermore, video games have been shown to help increase focus and memory.
With these benefits, though, limits should still be apart of your kids’ playing video games. Let’s look at a few reasons why you should use limits.
Limits Help Prevent Overuse
No matter how beneficial something might be, overusing anything will have drawbacks. Too much of a good thing, any good thing, can turn bad quickly. This matters because you as a parent need to realize that everything in your child’s life needs limits. As the parent then, you need to provide those limits and that structure.
Children with ADHD need limits more than most since they struggle sometimes with staying on track. Setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD helps your child learn proper balance. While you don’t want to remove video games altogether, you also don’t want to not provide helpful limits. If you have video games in the home, a primary reason for setting limits on their use should be to keep them from being played all the time.
Limits Help Teach Responsibility
Not only do limits help to stop overuse, they also provide opportunities for learning responsibility. Video games can help in some ways with teaching and development, but they can’t build life skills for doing chores and having responsibilities. With giving your kids limits, you can also ask them to keep track of their own schedule.
If you tell them they can play video games for only 30 minutes and then do something else, you can ask them to make sure they stick to the schedule. You then would check in on them to see if they actually follow through. It will take some time for it to work well enough that you won’t have to remind them. As you work towards that, though, simply putting limits in place and asking them to help follow the guidelines helps to teach them responsibility for their time and actions.
Limits Help Reinforce Routine
Not only do limits help teach responsibility, they also help reinforce regular routine. We always recommend that kids with ADHD have a regular daily ADHD routine. Routine helps everyone stay on track and maintain balance in your life. This matters for most people, but especially for kids learning to manage ADHD.
Through setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD, you help remind them of the other portions of their daily routine. The routine you develop for your kids should have set times and durations for things like play, reading, and watching TV. Playing video games should have similar limits to show your kids that all activities should stay within set boundaries. After the time allotted ends, they then can move on to the other aspects of their regular routine.
Tips for Setting Limits on Video Game Use for Kids with ADHD
Now that we have an understanding of some of the reasons why to set limits on video game use for kids with ADHD, we need to talk about how to do so. Limits can come in different varieties, shapes, and sizes. You can create and enforce limits through a schedule, through set rules, or through replacing an activity with something else. No matter the approach, though, each strategy has as its ultimate aim to limit video game use. Let’s take a closer look at some of these different strategies.
Encourage Different Types of Play
Setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD might naturally lead to fights. Whenever you try to set boundaries for your kids, your kids inevitably want to push back. If you try to limit something they truly love, they will try to fight against you. To ease your efforts to enforce limits, a good approach might include replacing video games with a different type of play.
As we have talked about many times, exercise and sports provide numerous benefits for kids with ADHD. As a result, we all should be encouraging physical play as much as possible. One way to limit video game use is to make a rule that for every 30 minutes of video games, your kids have to do something physical for 30 minutes as well. This could include walking or playing with the dog or playing catch in the yard.
With this strategy, you can help encourage your kids to get active while still encouraging them to have fun. If your kids lack a motivation to get moving, they might change their tune when they know they have to in order to play video games. In the end, they might even discover a type of play they wouldn’t have tried before.
Set Limits and a Play Schedule before the Video Games come on
For setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD to work you need to lay down the rules early. If you try to set limits in the midst of your kids playing their favorite game, it’s simply not going to go well. Ideally, you should set out rules and regulations long before video games even come into your home.
To find success with setting limits, you need to build a solid foundation. This means that you tell your kids that they can have video games only if they agree to set rules. If they don’t abide by the rules, you need to also tell them clearly what the consequences will be.
When you think of getting your kids video games, work up a contract that establishes the limits, rules, and consequences, even before you go to the store. Put in the rules, the limits on how much they can play at one time as well as the amount of time they can play in a day or a week. With an agreement outlined in advance and before the games come on, you should find keeping to the limits goes a lot smoother.
Set Limits Based on Your Child’s Personality
Not every kid acts the same or develops at the same rate. This means that when it comes to things like video games, you really need to set limits based on your child’s personality. Since children develop at different rates and in different ways, video games might aid some children and limit development in others. This means you need to pay attention to how your child learns and grows and how video games might aid in that.
If your child loves to play games that have little educational value, you should consider limiting their use more. However, if your child loves playing games with puzzles and learning opportunities, you might allow them more time to play. If your child simply uses video games to get away from their responsibilities, put higher limits on their use. On the other hand, though, if they do get their other responsibilities completed first and then play, you can reward them with more time.
The whole point of this tip is simply to remember to stay flexible. Every kid will respond to limits differently. You should consider your child and how the video games help or hurt their development. You should also consider how responsible your child behaves in general. More responsible children might respond well to less limits while others might need more.
Get Involved with Your Child’s Play Time
Another approach for setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD involves simply playing with them more. Most every kid would love more time and direct attention to play with their parents. As parents, we live busy lives with frantic schedules. This means that our interactions with our kids tend to be brief and less about play.
If you want your kids to play less video games, though, you could take more time to do something with them. This could include breaking out a puzzle to work on or going to the park. Whatever the activity, if you find something your child enjoys, you can encourage them away from video games by taking interest in other types of play they may like.
If you have several kids that all like different things, you can schedule a family game night once a week. During this time, you can require that everyone turn off their electronics. You can then play a board or card game or simply spend time together as a family. If you encourage fun in other ways, your kids might hardly notice the limits you set on their video game use.
Use Apps To Help Enforce Limits
If no matter what you do setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD ends in a fight, you might consider using apps to help maintain limits. In our modern connected lives, virtually everything can be controlled with an app. This also goes for most anything your child might play games on.
You can use technology in many ways to help enforce your limits. You can look for different apps for different gaming options online through resources like this or this source. Additionally, some internet providers now provide options to disconnect from the internet or to set limits for certain users. If your child likes to play games online, these could present good options for your household.
Ultimately, if all else fails, you can simply unplug or disconnect the game. If you set a limit of 30 minutes for playing games, at the end of the time, you then just turn off the system or TV or computer. You can set a rule that the gaming system must stay off or put away for another set amount of time. This way, whether with apps or with turning it off yourself, you limit your kid’s access to returning to the games for a set amount of time.
Make Setting Limits on Video Game Use for Kids with ADHD Work for You
In some ways, parenting feels like a never-ending battle between you and your kids. For most parents, they just want more strategies to help limit the battles. When it comes to setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD, you can find ways to eliminate the struggle. Hopefully, these tips and strategies can put you on the right track for setting up limits well in your home.
Finding success with limits on video game use for kids with ADHD depends on patience and trial and error. Not every strategy we outlined will work as well for every home. Additionally, some strategies might simply take more time to catch on with your kids. With patience and trying out different options, though, over time you will be able to find ways to make setting limits on video game use for kids with ADHD work for you.