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Managing Device (computer/phone) Time with a ADHD Child

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My son is 10 years old (soon to be 11 yrs) and diagnosed with ADHD, executive functioning disorder and now an oppositional defiant disorder. He is on medication and receives state behavioral therapy. Amazingly, he is doing well in school but is very difficult to manage at home (oppositional with a capital "ODD"). My question for the group is how do you manage your child's time on the phone and computer when they need it for school. Right now my son does not have a phone (he would spend all his time texting friends and playing games on it if available) and he has restricted access to websites on his computer and it shuts off at 8:30 pm. He is going to start middle school which is farther from home and we really have to get him a phone ,and he will need to have full access to the internet so I have to un-restrict his computer. I really dislike being "Mom the Bad Cop" having to monitor him to this level, but the few times that I tried to be more flexible we found him spending all his time playing games on the computer, watching inappropriate youtube videos (!) and playing games on the phone. When we leave the house we have to hide all the remotes, devices because many times we come home to find him watching TV, playing on devices (because he found it and figured out our passwords!) when he was supposed to be doing his homework. It is all highly addictive to him and we understand why the ADHD urge is so strong. But as he gets older, we can't keep restricting him in this way - we want to trust him - but he hasn't show us that he can control himself in this area. Any advice from parents of pre-teen/teen who have faced these challenges?

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Well as most people here know, I took it all away. All of it. My daughter is 12 and diagnosed ADHD and bipolar. In September I just stopped all of it. No phone, no games, no text messaging, no internet. She has a friend, they text on my phone. We have a surface pro and if she needs it for school we use that. She goes to the office if she needs to call me. She was going bad places and flat out told me that she couldn't help herself. It was one of the best things I have ever done. She does have a chromebook at school as do all the students. As part of her IEP, her special education teacher checks it every day and I check her school email every day. Honestly, she didn't even ask for it after about a week. It was a beautiful thing. We talk now. She looks me in the eye. I know EVERYTHING (and more than I think I wanted to know) about EVERYONE at school.

She told me last week that when they were doing positive sharing time that the teacher asked how video games and the internet contribute to the world and she said, "they don't" I'm not allowed any of that and me and my talk a lot and watch t.v. together. It's better that way.

I am aware that what I did is not for everyone, but it really worked for us. Maybe in the future it will change. Good Luck!

Thanks for the question. Welcome to the group. This is a "larger question" about the impulsivity of ADHD. From my understanding most children when given electronics, food and anything they are obsessed with will not have the ability to control how much they are consuming. Knowing that... we restrict what he is viewing and times he views it. We also see the value of having a phone. For example we ask him to take a photo of the board in class for the homework, or we don't know what is due that week. It sounds like your restrictions are very reasonable. We want our son to have friends and text people ( this helps us monitor his interactions with peers). So like most things, its day by day. He is not allowed to use it in any class and has never gotten it taken away.

One last thing ( I know you didn't ask) I would highly recommend getting a 504 plan or if needed an IEP for all of the high demands in middle school. I would also recommend you meeting with his teachers in the beginning of the school year to "lay the ground work". Looking back on 6th and most of 7th I wished I had met with ALL of his teachers to avoid all of the issues we are having.

Hope this helps..

I use an app called Our Pact that I installed on my son's phone. Our agreement is that his phone needs to be returned to us by 8pm (I charge it in my room at night). If he goes beyond the agreed upon time or not doing homework, I use the app which switches off everything except calling and texting. He would be on the phone all night if he had it. After school, we have an agreement (which he hates) that he has an hour of downtime on his phone then I switch it, so he's not distracted and jams on his homework. He is not allowed to play video games or watch tv during the school week (not much time for it anyway with homework and sports/practice). On the weekends, however, that's harder. If he stays home, we put all the remotes and such in a safe because he also figured out the passwords, etc. Where things get looser for us is on the weekend, and we're working on that all the time....trying to give him a certain number of hours, earn time through certain activities and chores, etc. It's an on-going battle.

Hello, I have had similar concerns with my 12 y.o. ADHD son. He has had 2 tablets, 2 different phones and gotten himself in trouble with all of the devices. He has been on inappropriate website, watching offensive music videos and is up late at night texting. He no longer has the tablets, no computer and I take his phone away each night at 9 p.m. I check his phone regularly to read texts and check his search and view history.

Although a computer may be needed occasionally for school work, we do all work (supervised) at the library or at my workplace. He is not allowed on the computer by himself. I do not allow him to take his cell phone to school because it is a distraction. If there is an emergency, he has friends and teachers who will allow him to use their phone.

I decided long time ago not to go down that rabbit hole. When my son was 11, my sister wanted to get him a pe paid cellphone I declined, then every year after that she has mentioned about getting him a perpaid cellphone for me to keep up with the bill. ( I can go on how it did not work out with her kids having a cell phone at 12 w/out ADHD ). My son is 15 y/o and he still does not have one. I know your concerns is how to manage your child uses of such devices. Being that he is young, it is not too late to remove these devices from his uses, when my son was 14, someone gave him a non service cell phone, to use, apparently the teacher was using devices in class to look up things and asked the students if they have extra phone to bring it for other students to use, apparently you still have excess to internet even without a service plan, this is how my son got it. Later down the road it caused some problems. My son managed to hide that phone about a month but just like his issue of distraction, he was playing around the phone and school work took a hit. During the summer time I will allow video games, still no phone. My 15 y/o will enter high school and I am still declining a cellphone. Unfortunately, the school will give him a tablet to use,but I have placed on his 504 plan that he will turn in the tablet daily to his teacher. My son use to skip class to go to the library to play video games!! , electronics devices for him is bad. As for internet use for school, I normally let my son work on things when I get home, one time I went to my room leaving him to work on the computer after a missed hmwk assignment and he was surfing the net. My son needs the supervision, his choices is based on his wants, things won't get done unless I'm the taskmaster. For example 2days ago he had an assignment due and four days later the paperwork was still in his bookbag incomplete,he received a F but the taskmaster was summons to get this done. I also have three video cameras at home foremost for their safety, because they get home first; it also comes in handy for impulsive behaviors and homework use. If I see them sitting there playing, I can talk to them through the video camera and say hey get to work. It's not 100% proof but for the safety and impulseness it's worth it. No contract, purchased the cameras, monitor thru an app.

Don't beat yourself up for being the tough mom, we need to give our selves permission for setting limits even if others don't see it that way. I have heard people all over, if their mother wasn't strict , I would have been in jail, etc. strict but fair. I use to despise the taskmaster role, still waiting to hang it up but the rate my sons are going, I see I'm in it for the long haul guiding them throughout life.

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My son is now almost 25 and I applaud your dedication to restrictions on electronics. Because it's not going to get better for quite some time......! It's all true - if we hadn't been so strict, my son would have been in jail and there are still times I worry. We have a locked box and we stored all the controllers, cords, etc for our computer and video games there for years. The box stayed in our bedroom, which also had a locked door. Don't be sorry for your oversight - these kids need it for a lot longer than I would have ever thought. One piece of advice for the future - no driving at age 16....we finally let our son drive at age 18 and he wrecked 2 cars and got 5 speeding tickets in about 3 years. No impulse control and really poor judgement.

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Thank you for your reassurance, it's difficult setting that limit but in the long run, I believe it will be okay. Also, I can't imagine my son driving for a long time, luckily he doesn't have any interest, my 13 y/o can't wait to drive but when he said "there wasn't nothing wrong with speeding," I definitely made note to myself.

My son is only 7, but we are also pretty strict about media usage & plan to stay that way. He isn’t getting a smartphone before high school - we’ll see how he’s doing then & decide.

Primarily, we block solitary media time - I prefer it to always be shared with someone in person (not online friends.) He gets to watch 1 hr of tv a day with his little sister. He sometimes plays video games with me or his father. He does have a kindle fire, but it has been disabled from any internet access or purchases - he can pretty much just use it for school apps. And it counts against his 1 hr media time, so he always prefers to watch the big tv with his sister.

We haven’t allowed him to search the Internet yet. Sometimes we let him make music or edit video on the computer with the help of me or his dad.

We do allow a “Saturday morning cartoons” binge so his dad & I can sleep in - but once again, it’s with his 3 year old sister. And after lunch, no more media for the rest of the weekend unless it’s a special family event like a movie night. Everything not little kid-friendly is blocked. But he’s actually pretty sensitive / easily frightened. So, things are blocked more to protect him from accidentally stumbling on something than that he would actually seek it out.

So far, it’s been working great! Our bigger problem was he would always take the batteries out of the remotes! Lol.

I am so grateful that I found this group and to know that I am not alone in my struggles with our son. It's so helpful to hear what works and what doesn't work from everyone... because there are days when I feel like horrible, failed parent. I am repeatedly told by my son "You're the worst mom ever" "You always kill all the fun," " You are so annoying; you are trying to control me," "why can't you leave me ALONE!" I'm sure some of you can relate and even chuckle about it, but it's not fun to deal with every few days and in the heat of the moment. After reading everyone's comments, I am reconsidering giving him a phone for middle school, and thinking about his 504 plan. The advice about driving was spot on and something I was thinking about for the future.

We also love having you and learn from your experiences. I will say that the phone has been mostly positive. He is able to take photos of the board for homework, which is our biggest issue. It also helps reward him.

6th grade our son didn't have a 504 plan, 7th he has it and I am going to add more things that he would not be given if we had not had bad experiences throughout the year. For example: when they are allowed to use 1 8x11 sheet of paper handwritten ( I am requesting he be able to type it, his hand writing his horrible). We had a negative experience with a teacher, he failed a test and I asked how the teacher what the tested are based on and she told me her lecture notes. She our son is expected to take very good detailed notes- not happening-, Of course this teacher did not offer to give him her notes. So this is another request I am making .

I really feel like by the time he graduates we will have it all dialed in... (he is only in 7th).

Hope these ideas help.

My daughter is 10 and I recently removed ALL electronic devices. She is only allowed to be on her Chromebook for school and I still monitor that and it gets put away in my room at night. She wakes up at least once every night like clock work. We discovered that she was getting on my computer in my office at 2am while we were sleeping. I was using her tablet as motivation to get her to complete other tasks and even modify her behavior. It's just too much for her, like she was so addicted, that's all she could think about if she wasn't on it. The funny thing is she doesn't care too much about TV, the commercials irritate her and we have restrictions on what she can watch, there's a pin code that has to be entered if the show is rated above PG-13. She has never had a phone and at this point I don't see the need. If and when the time comes that she will need a cell phone, there will be so many restrictions she will only be able to receive/send texts and phone calls from me. Everything goes on lock down at bedtime, remotes, cell phones (mine), laptops, etc. I'm about to put a lock on my computer office door and bedroom door. She seems to think what's mine is hers. I even find my own possessions in her room. Technology has been the bane of my existence these days for me and my adhd'er.

It's only been the first week without ALL electronics and she's going through a bit of withdrawal but I'm hopeful she'll acclimate soon. But right now she's driving me bananas.

All I can say is it's possible for them them to survive with out electronics you just have to be quite creative. Good luck.


Our son is 14 years old. This like other things ( food, sports) is very addictive. We have many restrictions on his cell phone through Verizon ( Smart family plan) so he is not able to download and watch inappropriate things.

I think of this just like we have a lock on our pantry to keep him from eating 15 bowls of cereal daily. Or every box.

Just know if he has any electronic device all school assignments and home chores are done first. I don't allow him to get in the car and be on his phone. At home at night phone goes up.

I just try to take the emotion out of it. This like the other things will get better with time.

If he doesn't like it they all go away and only get used during school hours.

If he has a school laptop they will restrict things from them watching inappropriate material.

Good luck.

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