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Technology Addiction

Is there a downside when a kid has a singular focus on one specific game?

Many kids enjoy one specific app or game and can become absorbed to the exclusion of other interests. Playing the same game provides a certain level of comfort and familiarity. For kids on the autism spectrum, repetition is not uncommon, and, for kids with ADHD, it can be easy to "hyperfocus" on a specific game. Many games and apps are designed to keep the player coming back for more -- and they often don't have an endpoint, which also makes it difficult for kids to stop playing.

Getting deeply into a game can be a needed respite from the challenges of social interaction. But focusing on one game can cause difficulty with transitions. If it's a challenge to get your kid to stop playing an absorbing game, you can use verbal, auditory, and visual techniques and strategies to help your kid transition more smoothly. Try saying, "Five more minutes until we need to switch games!" Or try making a specific sound such as ringing a bell, playing a song, or using a buzzer to signal the end. Let your kids know specifically what's coming up next and what the first step for them is.

In some cases, apps can be a big help. Try these ideas:

  • Timers. You can use anything from an egg timer to a timer app such as Time Timer or Timers4Me – Timer and Stopwatch to show your kids how long they've been playing and how much time they have left.
  • Picture or word schedules. FTVS – First Then Visual Schedule and My Video Schedule are apps kids can use to see and hear when they need to move from a specific app or game. (You also can create your own visual schedules to show your child how long he can stay on a specific game. The words can be as simple as "First/Then"; the photos can be of familiar objects such as the specific game and then a new game or an activity to explain the sequence of activities.)
  • Story makers. Apps such as Social Stories, Kid in Story Book Maker, and Pictello let you write your own social stories to discuss how to transition from one game to another.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.

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