Understanding ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder characterized by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning. These categories can be defined in the following manner:

  • Inattention: Wandering off task, difficulty sustaining focus, lacking persistence, and disorganized.
  • Hyperactivity: Excessive motor activity, excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talking.
  • Impulsivity: Hasty actions that occur in the moment without thinking. These actions have the potential for danger.

Symptoms of ADHD

People with symptoms of inattention might experience:

  • Failure to pay attention to details, resulting in careless mistakes
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations
  • Seeming not to listen when spoken to directly
  • Failure to follow through on tasks and assignments
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and assignments
  • Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental efforts, such as schoolwork or homework
  • Often losing things necessary for tasks
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Forgetful in daily activities
  • Hyper-focus: Adolescents and adults can experience episodes of hyper-focus when they become so focused on one thing that they can’t stop engaging with it. Technology (video games, computer/tablet use, Internet use) can be an area of hyper-focus.
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People with symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity are likely to experience:

  • Fidget and squirm in seats
  • Leave their seats when sitting is expected
  • Running or climbing when inappropriate (for adolescents and adults, this manifests as feeling “restless”)
  • Unable to engage in leisure activities quietly
  • Often “on the go”; uncomfortable being still for long periods of time
  • Excessive talking
  • Blurting out answers before the question has been completed
  • Difficulty taking turns (including waiting in line)
  • Often interrupting or intruding on others

How Technology Helps People with ADHD

Technology can be an asset for children and adults with ADHD. People with ADHD commonly struggle with time management, organization, completing tasks, and failure to pay attention to details. This can make it difficult to stay on task in a school or work environment.

Apps and computer programs can help people with ADHD stay organized, reach goals, and even fight the urge to succumb to distraction.

For children, electronic timers can help students stay on task and pace themselves as they work. In addition, technology use in the classroom helps decrease distraction in some instances. One study of third and fourth-grade students with ADHD found that computer-assisted instruction in math resulted in improved math performance and increased on-task behavior.

Alerts on phones or computers can help adults get to meetings on time or shift gears when necessary. Using an alert to Carve out specific periods of time to attend to email, for example, helps adults avoid hyper-focusing on one specific task.

Used properly, digital tools can help people with ADHD improve focus, increase productivity, and remember to turn their work in on time.

How Technology Hinders People with ADHD

With technology use on the rise both in the classroom and for personal use, it’s natural to wonder whether or not digital tools are a distraction for a person with ADHD.

One study of 29 ADHD children (and 21 children in a control group) between the ages of 6 and 16 found that ADHD children exhibited more problems playing video games and could be more vulnerable to developing a dependence on video games.

A study of 535 elementary school students found significant associations between the level of ADHD symptoms and the severity of Internet addiction in children. This study suggests that the presence of ADHD symptoms, both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, may be important risk factors for (?)Internet addiction.

To prevent technology from taking over one’s life, it is important to delegate media-free times (meals and celebrations) and media-free zones (bedrooms, outdoor spaces, etc.) to set limits on media use. People with ADHD can also use software and apps to schedule times to have tablets and other devices shut down automatically and use the “do not disturb” function to avoid interruptions during media-free times.

Technology use requires balance and self-monitoring. It can be beneficial to utilize the available software to help increase productivity, but also to help decrease distraction and hyper-focus.

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Last Updated: Feb 13, 2018