ADHD & Electronic Media

Mind Hacks points us toward a debate in the UK over whether electronic media leads to attention deficits. The Baroness I’m critical of the way ADHD seems to be diagnosed in many cases as: “not paying attention to things I think you should, and expending physical energy in ways I do not approve of.”

I guess part of this is that I share the principal characteristics of ADHD–inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity–and like other people who share these traits. (A quick test verifies this.) Now, I would escape diagnosis because I can intently concentrate on things, and do manage to stay still through things that require stillness and concentration, but only things that I think require this. I was the one doing other stuff (that the teacher did not approve of) to keep myself busy in seventh grade, and have similar coping mechanisms now. I bring paperwork to complete during faculty meetings, for example, because I am able to remain fully aware of the discussion while doing other things but if I set my mind on only the discussion, I would explode after a few minutes, because it can be so b-o-r-i-n-g. I’m sure some of my colleagues would like to have me on ritalin, but since I’m a grown up working in a profession with a great deal of personal freedom on these sorts of things, I can get away with it (along with host of other “eccentricities”).

The trick is that I suspect a lot of these kids are capable of sitting stone still (but for their thumbs) and staring at a video game for 24 hours straight. In other words, they have the capacity to pay attention, but they aren’t paying attention in class. Doesn’t that mean that our schools have an Interesting Stuff / Physicality Deficit (ISPD)? The Baroness Greenfield seems to think the electronic media are encouraging ADHD. I suspect, instead, that children are growing up with new sets of expectations in terms of interactivity and hyper-tasking, and that our institutions have failed to keep up with this.

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  1. Posted 4/25/2006 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I blogged about this a couple of days ago,and as someone with loads of ADHD and lydexea up the wazoo I have to say that I agree with you. Tech has always facilitated my ways of getting around ADHD and dyslexia, not the reverse. Of course I had it before we ever had more than a 12″ black and white TV at home. My conclusion was perhaps similar; we should stop drugging children who are normal but different in order for them to fit into the artificial construct that is a learning institution. It is not ADHD as much as it is a non-stimulating learning environment. It was like that before computers, and will be like that until it changes.

  2. alessandro
    Posted 6/7/2006 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Back in 1975 I was already eligible for a ADHD diagnosis, only because I was refusing to stay on my chair for more than two hours. Since the term was not available parents and teachers tried to find a solution with a suspect epilexya and other possibilities but nothing come out and I’ve survived schools compromising but never having real problems. 20 years later, studying a neurophisiology examen for my pedagogy degree, I’ve discovered that our backbone, during childhood years and until “complete” physiological development, just hates that we stay too many hours still, particularly on a chair… and in order to communicate it, often give us signals like stimulating legs muscles and pushing us to move and let the spine correctly develop. I personally think that ADHD does not exist apart as a huge business opportunity and a comfortable excuse for seriously superficial parents.

    forgive my english

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