Limit children’s time with television and video games

Limit children’s time with television and video games

Today’s parents are usually good at monitoring the content of TV and video games, ensuring that children are not exposed to violence, sexuality, and other adult themes. However, in many households, children may spend hours each day watching TV and playing video games. There is solid evidence that too much TV and video games increase the likelihood of a child developing problems with attention. A good rule of thumb for TV/video game usage is less than 2 hours daily, the less the better.

Limiting time spent with TV and video games is especially important for very young children. According to Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Director of the Child Health Institute and author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work For Your Kids, children as young as a few months old are watching too much TV, and may be developing permanent attention problems. In an article on, author Rose Garrett writes, “For every hour of television toddlers watch a day, they are ten percent more likely to develop attention problems at school,” according to Dr. Christakis.

What’s more, according to a recent study about children who watched who watched more than 2 hours of TV per week 40% more likely to have symptoms of ADHD in adolescence than children who watched less TV. The problem is the speed of the frames. Fast-paced electronic media seem to train children’s brains to attend only to faced-paced stimulation (e.g., the opposite of a teacher at a whiteboard). Click for video game and TV time recommendations.

I like this MSN Health article by Rich Maloof: It nicely summarizes medical research and recommendations about TV & ADHD.



Mental Illness in Children and Adults

Mental Illness in Children and Adults

Even beyond childhood traits (such as impulsivity, emotional reactivity, hyperactivity, etc), kids’ brains and bodies seem to experience and certainly to express mental discomfort differently than adults. For example, when adults are tired they tend to be lethargic and sleepy. Tired children often become agitated and irritable.

Children with mental illness behave differently than adults with mental illness. When adults are depressed, they tend to be characterized by sadness, slowing down, and gloominess. Depressed children tend to be grumpy—not sad—and they may have extra energy and agitation. While adults with ADHD are usually just restless, most children with ADHD cannot sit still for more than a few moments. Adults with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) usually use words to relive trauma, while younger children with PTSD show their trauma in play and behavior. Adults with Bipolar Disorder tend to have discrete “cycles” of moods that last for long periods of times. But children with Bipolar Disorder tend to have many mood changes each day.

Helping children with mental illness hinges on the understanding that most children do not have the vocabulary or concepts to accurately describe their internal experiences. They almost never know “why” they behave as they do. They are often unaware of how events link together—for example, how an argument with mom in the morning led to poor test performance in their first period class. Children tend to be more resilient than others would suppose, and each child has strengths and resources available to them on their road to a happier, more fulfilling life.

For more information about childhood and adolescent mental illness, visit the website for National Institute of Mental Health.


How Kids Think, Feel, and Behave

Children’s brains are not fully developed (and won’t be until they are about 25 years old). This means that they do not solve problems like adults. Younger children tend to be:

  • Concrete (“If Grandma died and went to up to heaven, then I could totally take an airplane to see her”)
  • Impulsive (Karate-kick a houseplant)
  • Inquisitive (“Would my dog like chocolate pudding?”)
  • Magical-in-thinking (“If I think a tarantula is under my bed, then it absolutely is.”)
  • Under-Informed (“Sponge Bob can see me through the television.”)
  • Hypothesis-Testers (“What will mom do if I put my hand on the power outlet…again?”)
  • Repetitious (“Anything worth doing once, should be done ten more times”)
  • Distractible (Attention spans are limited, getting longer over time)
  • Unreliable cause-and-effect understanding (“Mom and Dad got divorced because of me.”)
  • Hyperactive (Most 3-year-old boys would meet criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD, but very few actually have it.)
  • Imbue innate objects with sentience (“My stuffed animal needs a hug.”)
  • Emotionally reactive (“Since I didn’t get ice cream, this is the worst day of my life.”)

With age, children’s reasoning becomes more sophisticated (but may not yet be rational). Then, bodily changes (including hormones and changes in neurochemistry) play a bigger role in the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of older children. Older children tend to be:

  • Convinced of their uniqueness (“No one has ever felt this way, and no one can ever understand me.”)
  • Egocentric (“Everyone in the world is looking at my zit.”)
  • Easily influenced (peer pressure)
  • Peer-focused (social life is more important than family life)
  • Variable in identity (try on different “selves” to answer critical questions about who I am, what I like, what I want to be)
  • Rebellious (challenging social, familial, and cultural norms)
  • Judicious (sensitive to “unfair” behaviors)
  • Impulsive (Diving into a shallow pool)
  • Under-Informed (starting a romantic online relationship)
  • Emotionally reactive (a break-up is the end of life)
  • Limit-testing (seeing how far parents’ rules can be bent)

For more information about normal childhood development, visit this website  (it’s an offshoot of American Academic of Pediatrics):


Coping Skills Activities

ADHD Resources

As ADHD becomes better understood, many resources have become available. The most succinct, accurate, and effective resources that Dr. Weller has used include:

  • This website has evaluations that folks with ADHD (children and adults) have found very helpful. Evaluations clarify each person’s unique modus operandi in dealing with the world. It is a strength-based model that can help families better understand how to make the most of ADHD.
  • “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood,” by Dr. Edward Hallowell. Dr. Hallowell is a national expert in ADHD (he calls it ADD) and his books are easy-to-read, strength-based, and practical. They suggest cutting edge and real world strategies to manage ADHD.
  • “Overcoming ADHD: Helping your child become calm, engaged, and focused—without a pill,” by Stanley Greenspan. This book is a must-have for parents of children with ADHD. Even if children are on medications, it offers lifestyle and relationship suggestions to optimize the ADHD family experience.

More recommendations and ADHD resources can be found here.

Good Old-Fashioned Play

Good Old-Fashioned Play

Are kids today less creative? Are their over-booked schedules to blame? An article written by Rachael Rettner suggests kids these days are narrow-minded and just not as creative as they used to be. Good, old-fashioned play may be the cure.

Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, conducted a study in 2010 of creativity tests dating back to the 1970’s. Kim mentions, “children are becoming less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas”.

Major Causes

– Standardized Testing
– TV Watching
– Excessive Social Media
– Overbooked Schedules

Children are very resilient and good old-fashion play may be the cure. Sandra Russ, a psychologist at Case Western University, says that kids nurture their creativity abilities when they pretend. “Elements of insight, fantasy and emotional expression all go into this type of story-making.”