Technology and Its Impact on ADHD

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Etcetera spoke to Dr. Norma Mousally, senior counselor at the Lebanese American University, on the impact of technology on kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Smartphones and tablets have made it very easy for just about anyone to get sucked into the vortex of the Internet. “We are living in an era of information overload and this may have serious consequences for children’s education if the technology is not managed properly,” says Dr. Mousally.

We asked the expert: Is it possible for technology to cause ADHD?

The prevalence of hand-held electronic devices has coincided with a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD.Understandably, many parents wonder if the technology is one of its root causes. “At the present time, there is no conclusive proof that excessive technology use causes ADHD,” says Dr. Mousally. “The relationship between the two is complicated, but certainly, unrestricted access to technology has the potential to worsen symptoms of ADHD,” she explains. “School-age children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of excessive technology use since it may promote the development of short attention spans.

My child has ADHD but has zero problems focusing on his Ipad. Why?

According to Dr. Mousally, social media push notifications and pings from text messages all contribute to giving our brains a hit of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Similarly, ADHD medication like Ritalin works by increasing the amount of dopamine uptake in the brain. This is why it is not uncommon to see a child with ADHD be able to be completely focused on an electronic device.Dr. Mousally says that since the analog world doesn’t present the same constant barrage of dopamine hits, it can become harder to focus. “The real world—and especially the traditional classroom—will appear very boring in comparison.”

In light of all this, Dr. Mousally says that parents should not be anti-technology: “When used properly, technology can be a powerful learning tool.” She suggests that parents adopt strict rules and boundaries to regulate their children’s online leisure activity and to limit it to 1-2 hours a day. “Communicate with your kids by explaining to them that technology has real advantages but needs to be managed.”

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