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What should I know about ADHD and TV?

You know you can think of that one child in your class that was always fidgety, just could not stay in her seat or could never concentrate on one thing. These symptoms aren’t very uncommon in school children today – in fact you can see some of these symptoms in almost every child. But when does “highly active” become “hyperactive”? When does “high energy” become “attention deficit”? And what does it mean for the child diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, popularly known as ADHD?

According to studies, ADHD affects around 10% of all children. The most common symptoms linked with ADHD are of course hyperactivity and inattention and the symptoms can start showing at just around preschool age.

Some of them are:

1. Being in constant motion.

2. Not being able to concentrate on a single activity.

3. Being highly impatient.

4. Constantly putting oneself in dangerous situations.

Since it is difficult to immediately distinguish high-energy from hyperactivity, the ADHD diagnosis is usually confirmed only if the child has shown symptoms prior to the age of 12. There are also some small but significant traits such as squirming in the seat or maybe blurting out answers before being asked (though again, this is more likely a symptom of superior intelligence than hyperactivity unless tied in with other symptoms).

Television and ADHD

The reasons for ADHD are believed to be a mix of nature and nurture – genetic propensity, environmental exposure to toxins, or even low body weight at birth. Interestingly, boys are found to be prone to ADHD in their early age as compared to girls.

Media usage for long hours is also believed to worsen the symptoms of ADHD. For many years, the effect of media was contested, but now there is a growing body of evidence support the claim that extended media use does indeed create or at least worsen ADHD. A study in New Zealand found that attention problems increased by 40% in teens who watched TV more often as children. Bob Hancox, one of the researchers, said that parents must take steps to limit the amount of TV their children watch.

“Parents must take steps to limit the amount of TV their children watch.”

Watching fast-moving images makes a child get used to fast-paced action, who then expects real life to keep pace. When it doesn’t, it leads to boredom and inattention. Also, since watching TV is often at the expense of more attention-building and developmental entertainment like free play and reading, the effects are exacerbated.

Handling an ADHD diagnosis

What do you do once your child’s class teacher tells you that your son just does not stay in his seat or even if you find your daughter repeatedly causing mayhem in the house? For every parent, the possibility of one’s child suffering from any disorder is not easy to absorb. In the case of ADHD, this is further complicated by social taboos, especially in India, around psychology, mental health and counselling.

However, if not taken care of earlier, ADHD can develop into more serious disorders and have more impact on the child as she grows up. So if ADHD is suspected, please get a proper diagnosis as the disorder can easily be controlled through first line therapy and medication if necessary.

Remember, your child has famous company! Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD when he was just 9 years old and took to swimming to help his condition. Will.I.Am, a renowned music artist, also confessed to having the disorder and said that his music acted like his therapy and helped him a lot. Will Smith, one of the most famous faces of Hollywood, admits to having suffered from ADHD.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD when he was just 9 years old!

So the lesson is to not worry but get a good medical opinion, limit media usage and engage your child in more direct and personal activities.

Take care!

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