How to Crush Screen Overuse with ADHD

If you’re worried about the amount of time you or your child spends on screens, phones or gaming, you’re not alone. Many adults and parents living with ADHD are anxious and concerned about their experience with a magnetic attraction to the internet, mobile technology, and videogames.    

Our Online World Today 

According to an American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement in 2015, 75% of 0 - 8 year olds Little Boys on Video Gamesnationally surveyed used mobile devices for entertainment purposes, with little difference for low-income families. 50% of adolescents reported feeling addicted to their mobile devices, replacing face-to-face communication with social media, gaming and texting apps too numerous to mention. In 2012, Pew data reported that kids between 14-17 text an average of 100 texts per day and that four out of five households own a video gaming console. In one study, approximately 50% of older adolescents were on more than one device, "videogaming multi-tasking." 

Even adults are known to check our phones every 10 minutes. (What do you do when you’re waiting in a line? Gotcha!) Text is replacing in-person conversations for many of us. Some of us are so engrossed in our email and Facebook feeds we can't get out of bed in the morning.

What Does This Mean for the ADHD Brain?

We know all too well that when you live with ADHD, attention can be captivated by anything that’s interesting and fascinating. People with ADHD who tend to struggle with impulse control have a higher risk of excessive screen use. The immediate rewards that screens provide feed into the dopamine reward center of the ADHD brain. On top of that, for someone with a co-existing condition of anxiety or depression, the connections experienced from online interactions can enhance the possible related social isolation or withdrawal from offline attachments. 

Other Risks Associated with Screen Overindulgence Isolated on iphone

• Interruption of learning from online multi-tasking 

• Anger and irritability from disruptions in sleep 

• Poor relationships with family and friends

• Loss of interest in offline activities

• Obesity due to lack of exercise

• Excessive online purchases (games, stuff and pornography) 

Furthermore, there’s a positive association between ADHD and "internet addiction" (IA) a term given for an individual who can’t control their online behavior despite the problems associated with it. According to a recent study (Wang, 2017), “Clinicians and parents should pay more attention to the symptoms of ADHD in individuals with IA, and the monitoring of internet use of patients suffering from ADHD is also necessary.”

Here are four strategies you can put into place to monitor and curb screen time when living with ADHD.  

Limit Entertainment Use of Online Screen Time

Screen time and assistive technology interventions can be beneficial when used for learning and communication for people with ADHD, learning disAbilities, autism spectrum disorder, physical disAbilities, speech impairment and others. At the same time, limits for entertainment use need to be placed when there is increased problematic use.  

Quick Tips: Teens listening to music

• Limit watching unsupervised videos and You Tubes

• Reduce access to Gaming Apps across devices 

• Replace online entertainment with educational podcasts (no screens) or offline activities

• Reduce the tendency for an “electronic babysitter” and find in-person methods to entertain

Reinforce Co-View Time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Safety Tips, it’s OK to play a video game with your child or loved one to encourage sportsmanship and etiquette in your child. It also helps you understand what your loved one is engaging with in his games.  

 Quick Tips: Mom playing videos with kids

• Replace screen time as alone time and make it together time. Watch, play and connect together

• Watch a YouTube together to discuss your perspectives 

• Practice transitioning off a game or You Tube together, giving agreed-upon warnings to quit. Practice during non-stressful times

Turn it Off/Tune it Out

There’s nothing more distracting for the ADHD brain than pings and notifications or a website to explore that’s more interesting than what you’re working on. But it’s important to make your technology work with you, not against you! 

Quick Tips:

• Turn off pings and notifications during working hours.

• Close windows and tabs that distract you from what you are doing.

• Take a technology break every 30 minutes. 

• Set a few times a day to check email, then close the App. Out of site out of mind!

Create a Family Technology AgreementParents talk with boy

Have a positive and assertive approach in your family meeting. Your loved one will respond more favorably when you use "I - statements," rather than telling her that she is "wasting her life" on gaming. (Nancy Petry, Pause and Reset, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Problems with Gaming, 2019). 

Quick Tips:

• Keep mealtimes and other social gatherings/home areas free from devices

• Keep and charge phones outside of bedroom areas

• Establish agreed-upon hours for device usage on weekdays, weekends, and holidays with agreed-upon consequences

• Model your device usage. 


Screen time, multiple devices, gaming and internet usage are inevitable in our world today. Especially for the ADHD brain, the online arena can involve a fascinating yet challenging spiral of events.  As parents and adults living with ADHD we need to be proactive:

• Limit Entertainment Use of Online Screen Time

• Reinforce Co-View Time

• Turn it Off/Tune it Out

• Create A Family Technology Agreement

Try one or all of these and let me know how it goes for you!




 PS. Need more support with screen usage that works for you or your family? 

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some personalized solutions you can put into place now!


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