Regulate Summer Screen Time for Your Child with ADHD and Yourself

Mother with long brown hair and checkered collared shirt and jeans next to her adolescent boy with ADHD with short brown hair wearing a light gray shirt with dark gray long sleeves facing each other in front of a dark pill wall, both staring at their phones.Summer is here! How are your kids and teens with ADHD spending the extra free time? On the one hand, kids and teens have more time to turn to video games and connecting with friends on social media. On the other, they have more time and space to move around now that they aren’t required to sit and learn so much. This is a much needed break for kids and teens with ADHD who often self-regulate with movement. But with less structure and help with supervision, parents often have trouble keeping up with the entertainment, energy, and emotions of kids all day, every day. Many parents then turn to screens to help kids take the edge off of an otherwise hectic time. So it’s not whether screens are part of summer vacation, but how they are. So how can you help your family better regulate summer screen time?

The benefits of online connection for kids with ADHD

Though screen time has a negative reputation, it’s not all bad. Games are great for developing problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination. Kids experience a motivation to excel. They also practice picking themselves up after making mistakes to try again–a helpful experience for those with rejection sensitive dysphoria that often accompanies ADHD.

Older adolescent with ADHD and her younger brother, both with brown curly hair and cream colored tops, both look at a phone with a yellow case with great interest.Social media has the potential to help kids and teens with ADHD expand their social groups and foster stronger connections. They can become part of supportive communities that help them learn to express themselves and develop a stronger sense of self and identity. After years of feeling behind in certain areas compared to their peers, finding ways to improve their self-esteem and sense of belonging makes a big impact on kids and teens with ADHD.

Access to the internet, with its vast amount of information, also encourages learning. It can nurture the interests of kids and teens with ADHD. If a child doesn’t have access to a yo-yo teacher in their neighborhood, they can learn the basics and some fun tricks on YouTube. Importantly, they can also learn at their own pace. Sometimes kids with ADHD fall behind with certain styles of learning used in school, so having the opportunity to experience how they learn best encourages them to self-advocate for accommodations that might help them succeed now and in the future.

The side effects of too much screen time

Unfortunately, there are “side effects” to getting too much screen time on a regular basis. Too much screen time can actually take a bigger toll on developing children than we often realize. Screens are associated with negative health implications like:

    • Sleep issuesTeenage boy with ADHD with shaggy brown hair wearing a blue and white striped shirt lying on the white ground next to his tablet.
    • Low energy
    • Decreased productivity
    • Eyestrain
    • Headaches

Screens – and the applications and games we use on them – can also be highly addicting. We want the summer to be fun for our families, so it can be very difficult to work with them on rules for screen time. But it is important to explore these options to help improve their health and encourage your family to engage with the world around them.

A few simple tips to help you regulate summer screen time with your family:

Discourage late-night screen usage

Sillhoette of teen with ADHD with over-ear headphones on while playing video games on a screen that is radiating light against a dark background

If you need to, consider shutting down the internet or turning off phones to discourage late-night usage. Some families choose to have a phone basket or cubby to put everyone’s devices in. Doing this an hour or two before bed will help everyone fall asleep faster. Many families choose not to keep television sets or computers in bedrooms to help discourage any over-usage. This should help to improve your child’s sleeping patterns, which often aggravate any cognitive or energy issues they may be having.

Co-watch with your children

When possible, make sure that what your kids are viewing or interacting with is age-appropriate. It can actually be really fun to engage with them and their favorite video games, television series, and movies. Ensure that any news they are getting is from reputable sources. Monitor their social media usage to promote healthy interactions. Set child locks on devices and applications for the times when you are not around to co-watch.

Limit screen time

Young boy with ADHD in a bright blue shirt taping together cardboard in a craft project next to a bunch of craft supplies in a large art room.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that children and teenagers spend an average of six to nine hours per day on screens. Bringing this number down is a lot easier in the summer with so many other activities and crafts to try and things to get into. Everyone should really be getting a much-needed break during this season.

Follow my parenting acronym “SCREENS” to help you create regulate summer screen time with collaboration and an overall effective plan. Try to stick to a rule with screen time for all of your kids, so that no one feels left out or discouraged. If you’re feeling confident, try a “no screen day” once a week. See what kinds of events and other things your children come up with in the meantime. A digital break is great every now and then for everyone, and I highly encourage it. If you can, try to abide by similar rules. You might find that it benefits your own mental health in the long run.

There is overwhelming evidence to support that Mother Earth does, indeed, have some sort of integral connection to–and influence over–all living cells. Incorporating outdoor activities into your routine can optimize your body’s function with access to fresh air, sunshine, plants, animals and other environmental factors. Try planting a garden. Enjoy long walks with family pets. Do some yoga or play some frisbee in the yard.

Multigenerational family of 6 eating and sitting at a picnic table outside during a bright sunset

Encourage your children (and yourself, if you can) to be outside, screen-free, for at least an hour on the days that it is nice outside. And really, if you’re dressed appropriately, even rainy days can be fun to play in! Just be sure to check for upcoming storms and that the air quality is reasonable, especially with the unexpected weather we’ve been having and the increasing natural disasters happening around the world. Also, join your kids for family walks, bike rides, or other explorations.

There is no denying that screens play a pivotal role in growth and development in this day and age. After a long year of online learning, it is also imperative to make sure that your family has a plan to regulate summer screen time this year. It’s not always easy, but I promise it’s worth it.

Read more blog posts:

Watch on Dr. Saline’s YouTube channel:

How can smartphones help with motivation? (Handout)

Managing Technology & Families (Video + Handout)

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