How do you manage electronic devices? - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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How do you manage electronic devices?


Hello, all. Thank you in advance for reading this and for any feedback you may have.

My teen is not allowed video games during the school week, and I take his phone at 8pm on school nights and 9pm on weekends. However, his electronic device use is the number one issue we fight about. After I shut down the x-box, he's on his phone playing games, using social media, and binge watching videos and movies. It's all he wants to do. It's a battle after school with the phone and a battle on the weekend. I have an app on his phone that will freeze all but text and phone...use it when necessary and I am worn down by the "all my friends have their phones with them at all times" mombo jumbo. I try to arrange social gatherings and keep him busy on the weekend but he always wants to stay home--it's always an argument. I've dangled hefty carrots as incentives to get him to spend his time more responsibly but nothing works. I don't want to have to take all of it away, I am struggling with hard and fast rules.

I am looking for advice on rules you may implement or rewards or how you manage time on their devices. His "smart" phone and video games are making him not so smart, antisocial, and it's plain unhealthy.

37 Replies

How old is your son?

Birdie7 in reply to Hidden


Hidden in reply to Birdie7

Ok, I know this is way out there. I just took it all away. My daughter will be twelve in February. I think it is WAY more difficult with older kids and I'm REALLY not sure how this will work in the future) My daughter was diagnosed bipolar in August and ADHD in late September. I thought I knew what she was doing on her phone. I didn't. Once I really knew what she was doing on her phone, it was dark and bad. I tried to regulate, tried to limit, but she finally just told me that she couldn't help herself. I just took it all away. she has a flip phone now with no internet. I admit to being terrified to take it away.

It was hell for a week. Pure hell. It was also the BEST thing I ever did. I let her text her friends on my phone and we use the internet together on my Surface. I took all the other computers out of the house and made her Dad, my ex do the same. (WHOLE separate thing) She hasn't asked for her phone in two months. Hasn't asked for the internet either. She is so much calmer. We play games together, we talk (be ready to have to talk ALL THE TIME and pay attention to him ALL THE TIME.

It's hard. really hard. but it worked for me. I honestly think it's horrible for kids. I'm not at all trying to say that you should do what I did, but I think it saved my kid's life.

HUGS. I think others here have been really successful at limiting and rewards so I hope others have really good ideas for you!

Birdie7 in reply to Hidden

Thank you for your input!! I have read stories similar to yours, where the parent has taken all of it away. And, that it worked. I am all for getting rid of Instagram, games, internet. But now that my son is a freshman in HS, he's finally making friends and has a girlfriend. He has struggled socially for so many years. I hesitate to remove all social contact, believe it would be detrimental to his well being. And the xbox...he says it's the only thing in life he's really good at, that it he feels good about himself since he struggles with everything else in life. Gosh, it's so hard. I am contemplating shutting off all apps during the week after school. The app I use (OurPact) shuts off the snap chat etc., all except phone and text (which I am ok with). It's hard to deal with his extreme anger when I shut it down to get him to focus on homework, for example...he yells, hits things, harasses me. He just wants to be treated like everyone else, even though he knows it's different because of ADHD.

Hidden in reply to Birdie7

I totally understand! My daughter struggles socially too! As she gets older I'm not at all how I will handle this at all! I'll be interested to see how everyone else responds!

Parrot36 in reply to Birdie7

We use OurPact as well but they can circumvent the shutoff so don’t trust they are off it.

Alliea79 in reply to Birdie7

I use our pact too and the best thing I did was from the get go have a set schedule where she has it only at times when she should in theory have no other school or self care responsibilities. Weekends we are still figuring out. But her knowing ahead that there is a preset schedule takes a lot of the begging and “negotiations “ out of things. The hard part is to stay strong at all times and “do not negotiate with terrorists” as they say lol

Birdie7 in reply to Alliea79

So funny, I use the same language on my son when he wants more electronic time when he's had more than the average bear---I also say, "I don't negotiate with terrorists." Lol. Yes, though, it's good advice to have a very specific set schedule, thank you...I notice that when the schedule changes or husband doesn't stick to it is when things get loose and the electronic harassment begins.

Alliea79 in reply to Birdie7

Don’t get me started on presenting a United front with the other parent. I can’t get it to work no matter how easy people make it sound. It helps that I’m the only one with the control app on my phone, but while it makes me the gate keeper it also makes me very unliked and not popular with the kid because clearly if dad offered whatever privilege and it’s off suddenly it is pretty easy to figure out I’m the bad guy. For following the preset rules and consistency. Constant battle here so I feel hanged up on and beyond done with arguing with a teen child.

Spartan71 in reply to Hidden

Hi I know this is off topic and I apologize for butting in but I was wondering if you could answer me -what behaviors led to the bipolar diagnosis and what led to ADHD ? what are the different behaviors that you saw in your daughter? I suspect my son has inattentive ADHD but I’m wondering if it’s something more. Any insight would be much appreciated thank you so much !

Here is an article that might help..

Thank you!

Birdie7 in reply to Spartan71

Hi, Spartan71. You may have already done this, but wanted to mention it just in case you have not. I have had my son's blood work done to look for any vitamin or mineral deficiencies just to rule that out. I have it run every so often and after doing some research, have requested additional testing as well.

When my son was 9, we discovered that he was anemic (which can definitely affect behavior), very low vitamin D levels (immune system issues), and hypoglycemic to name a few. I now give him iron and Vitamin C and Thorne vitamin D liquid 2k IU daily. He also had high arsenic in his blood when I was looking for and ruling out lead and other toxic elements. His other test results showed quite a bit of oxidative stress and low carnitine. He now takes NAC and his doctor also added selenium and carnitine supplements. I gave him quite a bit of fish oil starting at age 2 (and I noticed improvement in behavior). I have supplemented him with fish oil EPA/DHA since. And, I am thankful for reading on these message boards about Vayarin Plus (Rx strength fish oil that crosses blood brain barrier) and I started my son on that this month. My son had sensory processing issues which impacted his diet (refused most foods with texture for example) so he had nutritional deficiencies, and every child is different...this is just what we discovered for our son.

If you haven't do so already, you can have your son's iron and vitamin D levels checked with his Ped, or take it a step further and have more detailed tests run with an Integrative Functional Medicine M.D. who may be more open to running more thorough tests like food allergies, fatty acid profile, and amino acids, etc. for example. I felt it was important to make sure my son's health was balanced before putting him on medication and addressing his ADHD head on. Best wishes.

Spartan71 in reply to Birdie7

thank you Birdie7. I do have him on Vayarin and have seen some improvement in emotional regulation. And I have had all the blood tests done and there are few areas where he is minor deficient(sometimes low iron, mild gluten intolerance) but nothing too significant. It's like he is always on the border of any kind of diagnosis which on one hand I should be thankful for but on the other makes it difficult to figure out if his behavior is "normal" or is there something else going on. He is in 5th grade this year and there is a big change in workload and having to figure things out by himself and he finds it very difficult so he is acting out. Being very moody and defeated. I will keep plugging away.

SparklieOne00 in reply to Hidden

My 9 yr old uses the internet as a coping mechanism. I’ve voiced my concern that he may be addicted to the internet. I’ve tried the two hrs rule but he nickel and dimes me for every minute and if I’m not watching over him with a clock .... it’s pretty much impossible. Also, looking for help or advice. Thanks ahead of time.


I know what you mean it is all consuming. We don’t allow electronics or TV on school nights or mornings. But he has his phone, at times when his behavior is good.

I don’t think taking it all away is the answer becuase that disconnects them from their friends. The problem is regulation of the devices and always over use.

Good luck. Our son is only 12 years old and he is still willing to stop using it and go do things.

Hi Birdie7 ~

I am looking forward to reading the responses you get on your post! My freshman son is 14 and we have similar issues. I allow him 2 hours of video games/internet usage per day during the school week, but he must get his homework done first. I feel two hours is a lot on a school night and sometimes he tries to get even more time : ( My son also feels (like yours) that video games are one of the few things that he's good at (although he has been very getting good grades in HS, so I don't think it's really true, but we live in an area with lots of super educated overachievers, so he probably feels that way). He does not play any sports, so lack of exercise is a concern for me (not him). I actually find my son's video game playing to be somewhat social. He plays with friends (they text each other about when they will be able to play) and also kids he meets online and I hear him talking with them and it's quite sweet how he interacts with them. He even has a younger "friend" he met and plays with regularly online and he calls him his "10 year old BFF". We also have had many, many conversations about the fact that video games are not real and if I see him acting inappropriately (his language or ideas he expresses) and I feel it's due to his video game usage, we will curtail his video game usage. This is an ongoing conversation.

On the weekends, my son is allowed 3 hours a day. Besides any homework or studying he may have, he knows he is supposed to walk the dog at least once a day, help with chores or cooking, read for at least 30-40 minutes a day and do things with us or interact with us (dad, mom and younger sister). He and I have had many conversations about too much video games/internet usage and although I have to "force" him to do other things, he really doesn't mind. If he were left up to his own devices, he would play video games all day long, but I just organize his day so that is not possible. Sometimes it's exhausting though -- I feel your pain. I'll be reading the responses you get and maybe I will chime in again. In the meantime, best wishes to you and your son!

Laufer in reply to Watermelon5

Hi Watermelon - just curious - how do you “organize” your son’s day? We also have a list of chores or expectations that our teenagers need to do before receiving electronics time, but not enough to fill their time. Thanks.

Watermelon5 in reply to Laufer

Hi Laufer,

It's not very formal at all. On Saturday mornings he tends to sleep in (this is pretty new for him, I guess it's a teenage thing). When he gets up he is supposed to come out of his room and have some breakfast and see what everyone else is up to. At this point, I usually ask him what he has for homework (if any) and whether he has any plans with friends or anything else he needs to do or would like to do that day. If he does, he and I talk about the timing of things, including things that others in the family will be doing. If he doesn't, I come up with some things I would like him to do (like washing or walking the dog, going to the farmers market with dad, riding bikes to the library, helping me make lunch or dinner, even finding a movie that we can all watch together that night). Usually he has some homework to do and he also reads for about 40 minutes each day. I also make sure he spends some time outside. Often if he is busy during the day, and doesn't get onto the computer until later in the day, it's just not as big of a deal. I've heard of families who don't allow computer time until 4pm or later. Kids learn to find other things to do : )

Watermelon5 in reply to Laufer

Laufer, another thing I am planning to have him do is volunteer work once a month (usually at this age a parent has to volunteer with the child). I'm also thinking of having one day a month where the whole family gets in the car with our bikes on the back and spends the day riding and exploring places near us.

My son is only 10 (going into middle school) but as soon as he is old enough I'm going to have him do some volunteer work (homeless shelter preferably) and have him get a job (supermarket etc..). He is going through this difficult ODD phase where he hates his family, home life and we are the worst, most annoying parents ever. He has told me several times, "I don't care about school. I don't care if I"m homeless" I'm sure that many of you have been there...

Birdie7 in reply to Watermelon5

Thank you for your comments, Watermelon5! Your son sounds more cooperative than mine. Our routines sound similar also. And, reading is a good reminder for me--we used to require that he read for 30 minutes before using electronics. He would read books with humor in elementary school but will now only read what the school, as he says, "forces" him to read. I do give him challenges during the weekend when I'm home, to earn more video game time. Yes, he is supposed to walk the dog also but it's like pulling teeth. Everything is a fight. He says he just wants his "chill" time. Drives me nuts. Anyway, I give him challenges such as spending 30 minutes outside, different physical activities, playing with his sibling, chores, going to the gym with his dad, etc. He's starting a new sport and practice this week after school, so I am grateful for that. He is always more cooperative with he exercises.

I like that you have hard and fast rules--3 hours video games on the weekend. It does get loose for us on the weekend when my husband and I have other plans and head out. If he's had his electronic time, I will literally pull the tv cord and lock it up. Otherwise, I find it hard to be consistent on the weekend unless we're home and we then have to manage his time, otherwise he would game. All. Day. Long. We used to allow gaming during the week, but he could not manage pulling away from it. And, it was very clear that he rushed through his homework, making half hearted efforts just to get to the gaming. Now that privilege is gone.

He gets his cell phone only right before it's time to leave for school and never before. Again, I take it at 8pm because he cannot control himself, and would be on it all night. He fights me on this, but I am firm. On the weekends, however, the phone is the enemy. Once his video game time is up, he retreats to his room with his phone. I tell him to find something to do that does not involve electronics. Fight begins. When he goes with me somewhere he's on the phone, snapchatting, binge watching you tube, scrolling Instagram. He can't put it down. I have a rule that it's not to be used at meal time. We'll go out to dinner and the fight begins. I take it away or use the app to cut his access, the fight begins. He thinks it's his right, we express over and over that it's a benefit. In his tunnel vision, he only sees that his friends have their phones all the time while I am strict.

When we are driving in the car together, run errands together, etc., every time I look at him, he's on the blasted phone. I have expressed to him our concerns that one day he will not be able to keep a job because he can't control his impulses and put the phone down. It falls on deaf ears. I have even gotten him private lessons with an instructor for a sport he likes, but it is seasonal. I am constantly trying to get him to find a hobby or something else to divert his interest away from electronics.

Sorry for the vent! Also hoping someone out there has more effective ways for managing their teen's cell phone and electronics than I do. Thanks so much.

Watermelon5 in reply to Birdie7

Ha ha, recently one Saturday my husband went on a bike ride and just took the Wifi router with him!

Wonderful discussion, folks. This is a topic many parents are dealing with, and it’s great to see new ideas!

We have similar problems with my 14 year old grandson. As long as his grades stay good which they are we have been working with him. Video games have to be off 9:00 p.m. Phone is put down 10 but not taken away. He is seen a behavioral therapist and with her guidance is becoming more active and spending less time on video games. Teaching him to self regulate is a big plus. Leads to less fights.

He will be an adult in a couple of years and needs to learn to control himself.

My rule for my almost 14 year old is - I take the phone at 9 on weeknights, and I try to enforce 2 hours of phone free time on each weekend day/holiday. She does have some activities which require the phone to be put away, but It's still PLENTY I think. I do find that even this small bit of away time makes her much more pleasant a person.

I remember some advice a friend told me a long time ago about another issue - don't be afraid to be "that mom". Most of the time you're not anyway and there are plenty of kids who aren't allowed tech time. When my daughter says something about "everyone blah blah blah", I tell her - and I truly believe - well there are plenty of people who don't.

Birdie7 in reply to wendyks

Wendy, thank you. Yes, they are much more pleasant with less electronic time, totally agree. I like that you enforce 2 hours free phone time on weekends. My husband and I suggest other things all day long and take him places, etc. It's exhausting to manage it and still have our own free weekend time. And we he doesn't have it, he's constantly on our tail asking for it and the whole song and dance about his friends this and that, etc., etc. I am that mom, for sure, and he tells his friends so. I need to make sure my husband and I are consistent together. Thank you for your input!!

I've gone to a few classes now taught by professionals who are extremely concerned about teens and phone/video game/social media/app usage. There is now evidence of addiction to these activities and it's more important than ever to limit not only video game time, but usage of screen time overall. For my kids and video game time specifically, I use a token and timer system. Each token is worth 20 minutes and they get 5 tokens per day whether it is weekday or weekend.

I've also deleted games off of one son's device when he has had several tantrums. For me it isn't worth the emotional upheaval to keep a game if he's having too many meltdowns while playing it. He has to show he can be in control for a period of time in other areas of his life in order to get the game back.

Kids are pretty savvy with "getting around the system." Be sure you check back frequently on devices to see that restrictions really are in place as updates can change restrictions. And I believe devices really should be checked in to a parent's bedroom at night because too many teens are staying up to all hours of the night on social media or messaging each other. Even one of my boys that I always thought was my rule follower was caught sneaking his iPod into his room to message a girl late at night.

Whatever rules you establish for devices, be firm and be consistent. Don't worry so much about what others are doing or not doing. Teens don't have fully developed brains and are making choices based on stimulation and pleasure-seeking. We have to make decisions based on what is good for them in the long run. :)

Birdie7 in reply to reg2018

Thank you, reg2018, great feedback. Agree, we need to put a specific plan in place and be firm and consistent. I believe we just need to determine how much time that will be on the weekend. Love your token idea. Also agree, that teens (whether ADHD or not) should NOT have their phones with them at night. I've read stories about kids getting caught up in social media drama with scary results (another topic and post). When I take my son's phone at night, it's in our bedroom so he can't sneak downstairs and take it from the kitchen, for example. I am firm on this, even though his constant reminders of how his friends have theirs, make fun of him, etc., wears me thin...I need thicker skin. I have told him when he doesn't let up that I consider it disrespectful and he will lose his phone privileges if he continues. Feels like harassment, honestly. Just so tired of fighting over weekend phone use, it's quite stressful.

I absolutely agree that we need to be firm and consistent. Thank you for reminder, and I needed to hear that he really IS making choices based on stimulation and pleasure seeking. Agree, we absolutely need to think long term and what's best for them, even when they don't see it that way. Thank you

I think one thing that is hard is that there is so much "relationship" connection with social media. Our kids are already behind with maturity, that when they are connected at least they feel like they belong. But on the other side there is an "additive" tendency to having a device in their hands and mine can not control how much he uses it. When I pick him up he wants to be on his phone because he has just left class. So it's a very hard balance, but I have noticed when his phone is gone he is so much better.

Thanks everyone for the great discussion.

Hello, there is nothing wrong with limiting electronic use for a 15 y.o. boy. You are doing the right things by having him off the cell phone also.

My son is 11. He is allowed no more than 1 hour of video game time each day after homework. The game is turned off at 8:30 p.m. He is good at switching it off because he knows I will take the game away if he does not follow the rules. He is not allowed use of his cell phone once I am home from work. It is used only for emergency phone calls. I have to hide his phone each day to prevent him from sneaking it and going online, texting and playing games until the wee hours of the morning. These are our rules.

Something of interest I found, a Cell Phone contract to use with your kid or teen:

This is a great conversation and so needed...Smartphones and constant media seem to be making our kids less smart and less social and more depressed and anxious. My advice is keep doing what you are doing - you are NOT the only parent and, just like when we were teens and "everyone else is doing it why can't I" wasn't true, it's not true now. Limiting use is GOOD and NECESSARY so while not what you want to hear, keep fighting the battle no matter how weary you get!! Bill Gates and others do it for their kids - that should tell us all something huge! Here's some ideas and encouragement that makes sense --

Birdie7 in reply to MomLeslieM

Thank you

What has worked for my daughter is establishing up front limits. She craves routine and order, and does very well when expectations are established up front so she has a sense of predictability. It calms her. Not sure if your son is the same but it seems to be a common ADHD trait. We also take electronic breaks for days or even weeks at a time.

Birdie7 in reply to ASMomma00

Yes, good reminder on the routine, thank you. We need to take an electronic break for sure, that's a good idea.

Wow - I just posted the same question to the community. I didn't see your post until after I posted mine. Your son sounds like my son! It's a daily battle, and the reality is I don't have the time to monitor his addictive behavior. (I work full time and have 3 other kids). He used to be a very active, energetic kid but two years ago he quit all his activities (tennis, fencing, trumpet, chess). Now he prefers to sit on his bed with his computer all day long with the door closed. Refuses to do scheduled lessons or classes of any kind because it's structured and sets up expectations that he can't deal with. Recently I started limiting the time on the computer (It shuts off after 4 hours on the weekend) to force him to do other things. For the Xbox we set it to one hour and then it shuts off and the rule is he has to do his school work first before playing. We finally had him pick a sport (he picked baseball) and that gets him out of the house. IT's his only activity at this point. Now that it's warmer he enjoys being outside so I got him a gardening tool kit which he seems to be getting into. It's so hard to find something that he willing to put effort into! My son has three older sisters and I never went through any of this with them. His older sister (now in college) also has ADHD (wasn't diagnosed until age 17 and was always a motivated, high achieving student) but does not have any of the severe issues that my son has. Like you, I'm looking for answers to this device/electronics question!

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