Ask the Experts

Q: Why Does My Son Beg for More, More, More Screen Time?

Even with generous daily screen limits, our 9 year old with ADHD wants more — more TV, more video games, more YouTube. He pesters us constantly and shows no interest in physical activity like sports, which we know helps his symptoms. What can we do?

Q: “My 9 year old with ADHD likes video games & YouTube more than actual, live sports. We keep him active in sports to treat his high energy and hyperactivity; we also limit screen time to 90 minutes every day. But it seems he just wants screens, TV time, and games. How do we get him away from screens and more interested in other things?” — Jeffboy

Hi Jeffboy:

Lots to unpack here. But a few questions before we dive in.

You say you are “keeping him active in sports,” which is a terrific way to channel the energy, get moving, and also promote social skills. But does your son enjoy it? Is it too difficult for him? Is he a “sports” kid?

Perhaps you could explore other “activities” that serve the same purpose that your son enjoys more. You don’t mention if he is playing a team sport. When my son was younger, he appreciated the importance of how good he felt when he exercised. He was not an athletic child and didn’t like the added pressure of playing on a team. For my child with ADHD, karate lessons and swimming at the local Y were more to his liking. Even a trampoline in the backyard would do the trick!

As for screen time. One and half hours for a 9 year old is a lot. Have you thought about eliminating the screen time on school days entirely? Or if you feel that is too drastic, schedule “blackout” hours nightly when everyone in your home engages in activities without screens. You set a period of time — such as two hours — when the house is “dark.” This is the perfect time for him to dive into other activities or interests such as music, LEGOs, drawing, even comic books and graphic novels.

[Free Download: Too Much Screen Time? How to Regulate Your Teen’s Devices]

Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to determine when and how long he can use his devices and to introduce clear and specific controls, rules and consequences.

Good luck!

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