TV and ADHD: is there a connection?

Is there a connection between TV and ADHD? It probably depends on how you define connection'.

I heard on the John Tesh radio show about research that discusses children age 4 and under watching a lot of TV. It said that there is a connection between watching TV and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It apparently is due to neural pathways being developed and being used to things that are presented quickly on TV (as well as video games, etc). When the child is ready for school the pace is slower than the child is used to and the child becomes bored and distracted. Apparently many of these kids end up with a diagnosis of ADHD.

By the way, I am a speech-language pathologist and have recently begun working in early intervention. I was looking at your site with interest and am happy to see your strong support of parent involvement. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!

Robert’s response:

I really don’t have any expertise in what “causes” AD/HD, so the best I can do is to refer you to the research literature on the subject. I lived the first ten years of my life without any TV, and yet my first grade report cards indicate that I was showing signs of what was later diagnosed as ADD (without the ‘H’ for ‘hyperactive’). So I’m pretty sure, based on personal experience, that television alone does not cause AD/HD. Given what I know about children’s neural development, I can certainly believe that it’s possible for large doses of TV and video games in early childhood to reinforce the neural connections and pathways already present in a child with AD/HD, to exacerbate the condition, and to make treatment more difficult. I would, however, stop short of attributing AD/HD to TV watching.

Edward Hallowell and John Ratey have written a number of books on AD/HD including Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, which are very helpful and user-friendly. I highly recommend them as a starting point for anyone who has, or knows someone with, AD/HD.

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