Texts Gone Wild: ADHD and Digital Impulsivity

Q: "My teen is impulsive, and he texts his friends and siblings without thinking about what he’s saying. He has made inappropriate comments to friends and family, and it has cost him a couple of friendships. How can I get him to think before he texts?"
The Experts | posted by Michele Novotni, Ph.D.
adhd teens look at text messages on cell phone

A: Your son isn't alone. Many children and adults with ADHD have challenges with impulsivity and technology makes it too easy for them to shoot their half-baked words into cyberspace.

Texting, emailing, Tweeting, and chatting on Facebook encourage quick, short responses. In the hands of an impulsive teen, this is a recipe for saying the wrong thing — a lot.

If he is willing — and it is a big if — review several text streams with him when he has a quiet moment away from texting. Discuss his choice of words. Most phones save texts, so you will have many conversations to choose from. With your help, he should be able to see how his words may have offended some of his friends and family.

If he admits some of his texts should have been phrased more judiciously, have him use a strategy called "pause before sending." He counts to 20 and re-checks his text before sending it. Some phones allow teens to draft responses before sending them to text-mates. Ask him for his ideas about cleaning up his words.

Awareness of the problem is the first step in solving it.

Michele Novotni, Ph.D., Wayne Counseling Center, Wayne, Pennsylvania

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