One of my students included this very interesting 9-minute TED talk in a psychology class project.
The speaker proposes that, as with diabetes, there are now arguably two forms of ADHD. We could call the inborn variety ADHD Type I; Type II would be what one doctor calls “Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder”, developed through excessive Internet use.
I found the analogy with diabetes helpful. It’s easy to think about how the over-consumption of sweets and junk foods stresses the pancreas into producing less insulin, thereby making it harder for the body to break down healthy foods and creating cravings for yet MORE sweets and junk. (Many addictions work in this same way).
In a similar fashion, too much hyper-stimulation from frenetic computer and cell phone use causes relentless surges of dopamine (the pleasure hormone) into the bloodstream. The body protects itself from this deluge by shutting down many dopamine receptors, thus creating a condition in which it takes more and more dopamine to get the same pleasure response. Normal, non-cyber activities such as reading, playing games, doing art projects, and hanging out with friends, don’t deliver the necessary dopamine wallop to the dulled receptors, and are therefore experienced as insufferably bland and boring.
If you’ve got an antsy kid who loves video games and hates to read, definitely start weaning his screen time (computer, cell phone and TV) down to a total of no more than two hours per day.
And to ease him into reading, try checking out some exciting audio books from the library. He can listen using headphones while standing, walking or bouncing on an exercise ball.
Listening to books helps develop vocabulary and gradually gets kids hooked on the rhythm of the plot and empathy for the characters. Like cultivating a taste for plain water and salad instead of soda and chips, the taste for reading needs to be coaxed over time.
Thankfully, brains are flexible and those dopamine receptors DO grow back if you can just give ’em a break!