ADHD and video games

Shauna - posted on 06/27/2010 ( 21 moms have responded )

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another thing i wanted to question...my son has tons of toys and things to play w/but the only thing he will sit and stay focused on is xbox 360. i know this is a contreversial topic bc ppl say video games corrupt kids and make them anti social, but the thing is...my son is one of the most social kids i know...he's absolutely brilliant and i feel the reason he likes these types of video games more than say leap frog or other learnig video games is b/c he's mentally above all that stuff. i think that adult video games are just more challenging for him and i have had talk after talk w/him about how it's all pretend and how this isn't what happens in real life...referring to army games and things of that nature. i know it may seem wrong ,but when a 6 yr old can COMPLETE A RATED MATURE video game...he's obviously got a talent. he's so good at them and so determined to beat these games i'm amazed!!! i would worry more if he had a behavioral problem but he def does not ....he's a very sensitive and loving little boy and he's soooooo freakin smart it's really amazing to me. i personallyl don't think i'm making a mistake by letting him play these things...i feel like i'm challenging his mind and i know there are a million other ways to do this but this way acutally interests him. i only let him play the xbox durign appropriate times and when he's bad he is grounded from it for like a week. i just wanted other parents thoughts on this because i know ppl have a lot of bad opinions on video games. to me its a form of art...i go to art school for fashion but when i first started i was going for multimedia production and design wanting to make video games. i just think maybe he just has a knack for this sort of thing and who am i to take that away from him....u never know what positive things this could lead him to one day. i know the sign to look out for and i don't think i'm being an irresponsible parent by any means. but one of my questions is...why is this the only thing my son will sit and focus on for hours if i'd let him. it doesn't even matter if he's on his meds or not this is absolutely the only thing he can sit and focus on...does anyone find this very strange???

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Tara - posted on 11/21/2011

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Thanks for your post, Theresa. It is good to hear from an adult as it isn't always easy to draw this information out of an 8-year-old. I liked your analogy of the busy wall v. the blank wall. This makes sense. The brain being on perpetual fast-forward, that rings true in my son's case. The constant movement, for example at the dinner table, is what he says he does to "get rid of all the thoughts" in his head. It must be really tough to have so much going on in there all the time, especially if an "outlet" for it isn't available. Sitting still in a classroom all day is not easy for kids with ADHD but for adults who don't recognize these symptoms, my son just appears to be annoying, bad, not listening to instruction. Even knowing all this, it can still be frustrating to no end. I can ask him not to hum, not to rock in his seat. It is hard to have a conversation because his movements are so distracting to those around him but it is those movements that calm his brain so he can focus. He hears me. He understands me perfectly. Then he goes right back to doing these things. He doesn't even realize he's doing them until I point it out.

Beth - posted on 11/23/2011

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Julie , that is not the mind of a normal person.
My husband and I both grew up with video games and we are gamers and we do not experience what you describe. You son sounds like he needs some help and needs to see someone for this. Video Games did not do it to him. Everyone in my age group grew up with video games, at least everyone I know did and none of us have had the experience you describe.

Cynthia - posted on 11/21/2011

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My 18-year old son has ADHD and Asberger's. Playing video games seems to be the only enjoyment he gets our of life right now. We limited his time for the past few years, even going to the point of banning him for months on end during school if his grades were not good. I think it's a waste of time but he's an adult now. As long as he is finishing school and going forward with his life, he can choose to do whatever he wants with his free time. As far as being antisocial, my son has the XBox LIVE and verbally communicates with more people than he ever does in real life.

Beth - posted on 11/21/2011

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Video games are used by ADHDers of all ages to self medicate. It's the one thing they can really focus on because it keeps changing, I know this from experiance I am ADHD.
BUT games are rated M because of their content not because of difficulty. video games are find as long as they are content appropriate. Cursing, blood and sex are not appropriate for a child this young. You aren't challanging his mind with these M rated games. You are filling his head with whats on the screen. I know this because I play them. When I close my eyes to go to sleep I dream in video games if I've been playing them. If you want to challange his mind Get him a Professor Layton game ! They are awesome brain challenging games. Puzzle games , not games where people kill others. My philosophy is if the child can't legally buy it for themselves they shouldn't be playing it.

Jaelyn - posted on 07/10/2010

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I think it is a general concensus that ADHD kids love to and do well with playing video games. While I will not repeat everone above, I will say that through my extensive research, they are all right on track with ONE BIG exception.



Just because your child is CAPABLE of comprehending and completing a game with a rating above their age level, remember that ADD/HD kids have a natural proclivity towards violent behavior as they do not know how to control the range of emotions associated with anger. So PLEASE be very careful to all moms who think it is okay to let them play these games. There have been several case studies on the subject stemming from an ADHD kid who ran down 3 innocent women with a stolen car at age 12 because he was allowed to play Grand Theft Auto. He was not able to disassociate the game from reality and truly did not comprehend what he had done.



To the mom whos hubby plays COD at home, PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN! This is in the best interest of your child. My hubby loves the game too and have always had a firm rule about the kids not playing above-rated games, but I noticed the interest and disassociation happening just from watching daddy play COD from time to time at home, he begam to develop an obssession with guns, which we do not allow in the house, even as toys for the above reason, he began turning anything and everything into a gun, legos, playdoh, silverware, etc, all as a direct result of watching daddy play.



So I banned the game and all others like it, from the house while the kids are awake. He is welcome to play at home if they are alseep, head to a local starbucks for an hour or two, or a friend's house, or play at work, whatever, but NOT in our home. It was not fair to the kids to tell them to stay away from daddy because he was playing an adult game, and risk them sneaking up and watching anyway, so we just eliminated the exposure completely. Once I explained the reasons behind the banishment, my hubby readily agreed and it was a non-issue.



Also as another poster said, if not promoting violent behavior, it will affect their dreams whether they admit it or not. Why create such an environment for our kids who already have it tough, when it can so easily be avoided?



There are HUNDREDS of age apropriate games, especially for the Wii, my son loves to do the Wii fit, and Wii resort which is not only positively stimulating, but he gets exercise in the process. In Wii resort there are games such as sword fighting which he naturally loves best, however they are okay in the sense that they in NO WAY mimic real life, so there is a healthy line between fantasy and reality.



All of this has been heartily confirmed as being in 100% agreement with SEVERAL child psychiatrists/psychologists that I have consulted on the subject.

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Christine - posted on 12/06/2011

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My son has stayed up nights at a time until he beats the game. It sucks when they get a game and beat it the same night

Barbara - posted on 11/28/2011

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My daughter is 6, and has ADHD, She loves her nintendo dsi. I let her play the e rated games only, and when she is having a really bad day, it does calm her down... She does play with her other toys also, but loves that DSI

Julie - posted on 11/23/2011

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OUR BRAINS have no conscience ... what it takes in it sees as reality - no matter what you consciously tell you son. Trust me, my youngest was a boy when video games came out and he is QUITE DIFFERENT than his siblings... he (24) STILL does not live in reality - Oh, if I could only go back and UNDO ... It even affected his driving when at night I allowed him to drive and all of a sudden all sorts of things appeared in his night-vision of the headlights and he kept hitting boxes, etc., fully expecting them to merely bounce off the highway and us be safe! I had to calmly ask him to STOP!!! as the next thing that might appear in front of us could've been a washer or dryer or refrigerator that would've come through the windshield. He saw NO REASON for my concern OR alarm! ... and could have gotten us killed. He played video games so many times that if you got killed you merely started over with '0 points'!!!
You son may seem social but picture everything he is doing as real and you might change your mind... his is not - it is taking it all in as REAL - trust me!

Theresa - posted on 11/21/2011

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The internet is a safety blanket for those who want desperately to socialize but feel not-so-comfortable doing it face to face. I can walk up to any stranger and strike up a convo and on various subjects with no problem but my brother (who we have suspected for 38 yrs that he might have Aspergers) he could never just randomly walk up to someone and start chatting.

Theresa - posted on 11/21/2011

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As and adult with ADHD (diagnosed at age 30 finally!) I can say that we have a way of finding something that is of great interst of us and we use that as a...hhhmm... mind rest? It's a bit like someone without ADD/ADHD looking at tons of designs and colors and once in a while looking over at a blank wall or screen to 'rest' your eyes and mind when things are just becoming too busy for you. I'm an avid reader and at one point I was a bit stuck on games. It's also an outlet for us when we have no idea where to put our depression and frustration caused by ADD/ADHD. It helps us work through problems. An ADD/ADHD mind is a bit tricky. We are not 'special'...we're just on fast foreward in the mind a lot. It never hurts to introduce new things like Frisbee or maybe bike riding to give him/her a new thing to try. I've notice boys who are adhd like the games and electronics more than anything...maybe he's interested in the graphics? The action of? The ins and outs of the gaming industry or maybe he just enjoys the fast-paced fun of it all.

Kelly - posted on 11/20/2011

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ADHD kids enjoy games, tv and computer like games because it helps their head tune into one station. They are able to focus unlike other games/activites. As with anything moderation is important. Sitting too long in front of a TV or gaming system wether they like it or not is not healthy. If he is bright I would also find challenging games and puzzles that challenge him minus the graphic violence, language and sexual content in some rated M games. They are filled with it hence the mature rating. He may behave fine now but overexposure to all of that will some day have an effect.

Erin - posted on 08/26/2010

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I do not find this strange; my son is 11 and he is the same way. He could play Xbox 360 all day and focuses a lot on army games and catch the bad guys in 14yrs or mature games. He also focuses on lots of computer games like puzzles or build your own city,rollor coaster, theme parks, I Spy games. I believe he is learning a lot fom these games and using his mind. He is in grade 6 and is very smart in school and only has some troubles with spelling and a bit with reading(reads only when he wants to) interested in adult books on learing science experiements, weather, the planets and space. My son knows that some of the Xbox games for older kids or adults is not real and he does not act out any thing in these games! I believe that he focuses on this soo much because of the stimuli, colors, fast pased moving objects/people and getting to many different levels and the reward for completing them!

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I relate. It seems like many ADHE< ADD and autistic type kids really gear into these. My main advice is to keep him away from the Mature killing type ones. I only let my kids play G and a few T rated ones and they are teenagers and above. Scary behavior can be learned, (even in the forest behind Hilter's home as a boy playing war games).
These kids have minds that gravitate toward electronics often. I pray that it is a gift, but it does need to be limited and I congratulate you on stopping it for a wk. when he misbehaves. There are some good positive, sport type videos, etc.
Best wishes to you and yours and your college!

[deleted account]

The positive side of playing "casual" video game playing can not only improve a child's self esteem, but also his attention span, and memory. In addition, it can also help to relieve stress!

Children with ADHD often lack that sense of control that comes much more easily to their non-ADHD peers, so playing casual games is one area in their lives in which these children can experience some sense of control with the added benefit of achieving success in something and enhances the child's self-concept and self-esteem.



The negative side of video games is that they are very stimulating and are much easier to pay attention to than school work. Connecting with people online can be much easier than doing so in real life. Kids can be more defiant with their parents when they don't want to turn the game off for fear of losing their progress on the level of thier game. Video games can actually become addictive, and show the classic symptoms of addiction e.g. tolerance, dependence and continuing despite harmful consequences. So, it is up to the parents to set the rules and expectations in your home and most of all to be their parent and not thier friend!



C. Neveu; Child and Youth Worker

Wyno2chick - posted on 07/02/2010

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no this is not strange at all. From what i heard from my dr which i truely believe is that the reason why kids like ours with ADHA focus so well and eccel on video games is because it is high stimuli which is how there brain works best. sitting and reading a book is too slow for how there brains and bodies are going hence the reslessness! I do no though that Video games keep them up on that 'speed high' as it were and after can have a even more hyper affect!

Raelynn - posted on 06/30/2010

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My 7 year old with ADHD is the same way. It's all he wants to do. Playing XBOX 360, Wii, Leapster or a game on the computer. He too can play for hours on end if I don't limit it. Although now that Leapster World is open, I would rather let him play that for a while because it's educational. He just loves playing video games and loves to show me what he's done and what he can do on these games AND he knows what he's doing and IS good at it! I took the XBOX away because he would find a controller and get up like 5:30 in the morning and would be playing before I got up and would not want to do his homework after school. I don't let him play 'M' games but he will play once in a great while with his older brother or dad. So Shauna, my son too will only sit and focus on playing games if I let him.

Shantel - posted on 06/30/2010

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The video games move so quickly that I think they have an easier time processing them than kids w/o ADD/ADHD.

Nancy - posted on 06/30/2010

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The reason ADHD kids prefer the video games is that they tend to HYPERfocus on these games...that is why they can play for hours on end without stopping...my son does the same darn thing...

Phyllis - posted on 06/29/2010

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Mine is a video game addict too. But I only let him play in the winter when its too cold to be outside and on miserable days in the summer. And even then he gets an hour tops. Our problem is that my husband sees no problem letting him play the Mature games, like Call of Duty, and I don't like it. However, I am at a loss b/c my husband refuses to stop playing these games in front of them, so the kids are exposed regardless. It makes me nuts, even though hubby is only here 1 week in 6.

Tara - posted on 06/29/2010

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My son with ADHD also would rather play Nintendo DS games or computer games than just about anything else (though LEGO is his latest obsession). I am careful what he plays and for how long. The games he plays are rated E for everyone. Mature games, those where the topic is war or people shooting and violence is off limits. He is very sensitive and so I have to watch what he is exposed to on the computer. He will have nightmares if he is exposed to something that is beyond his years. He really gets into gaming and can sometimes become obsessed and not able to shut those thoughts off come bedtime, for example. Routines are important and so I don't like the electronics before bedtime. If he gets a new game, he has trouble focusing on his school work because it is all he can think about. Limiting the time he plays I think is really important, but I agree that there are lessons he can learn playing these games. If they are good at it and little else, at least it is something that is goal-oriented and they can challenge themselves with. Still, there are many things this type of play is not teaching too, such as social skills. I think it's all about balance and not allowing gaming to take over other forms of play that are equally or more important to the child's development.

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