I was writing a post about why years 6 and 8 have been the best yet, but then Charlie had a mini meltdown this week. It was easy to pinpoint the cause — we just got back from a weekend trip to El Nido where he had copious candy from a Halloween party, tons of screentime, he was overtired, and we were off our normal routine. All those factors contributed to this most recent meltdown, but I think screentime was the biggest source.

Charlie’s behavior over the past three months has actually been incredible overall. I realized that in our recent day to day lives, the kids get virtually no screentime. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision; we just had much more to keep us busy when we moved to a new city 4 months ago. We also don’t have a tv, and even when the kids are allowed to play video games on the weekends, we’re often so busy the weekends pass without them playing any games at all. Another screen we had to eliminate recently was the Kindle. After a truly epic meltdown because Charlie wanted to stay up to read every single book in a series, I banned the Kindle… permanently.

This lack of screentime has had an immensely positive effect on Charlie’s behavior. He sleeps better, he behaves better, and he reads actual books much more. When things are going well like that, I tend to let extra screentime sneak in, but it usually backfires. We started doing some research on the effects of screentime on kids with ADHD and came across some interesting points:

Dr. Jain believes children with ADHD and ASD should never be in front of a screen unless it’s for educational purposes and, even then, he says parents and educators should exercise extreme caution.

“Any kid with ADHD does not see screens as an entertainment source. It’s a drug to them with the same cravings and withdrawal effects,” says Dr. Jain. “It’s dangerous for autistic kids because it deteriorates their social skills as they become dependent on the Internet as a way of creating an alternative social atmosphere.” (source)

Wow no screentime at all?! But it makes sense. Charlie has an inability to control his desires when he wants something or more of something, and that is almost always what leads to a meltdown. No wonder his behavior has been so good since we banned the Kindle, and have been too busy to play video games!

Screen time provides stimulation to children with ADHD who suffer from Reward Deficiency Syndrome, creating addictive, impulsive and compulsive behaviours. Screens also stimulate brain dopamine function, which tends to be lower in kids with ADHD. Their addiction is spurred in the same way someone with lower levels can be driven to consume alcohol or use drugs.

An occasional hour here and there of screentime for Charlie seems to be ok. But I will try to limit screentime even more going forward, considering how much more it impacts kids with ADHD.

Do you have strict screentime rules? Does screentime seem to affect your child’s behavior dramatically?