by Emilia Maj 

In a 2009 study, it was found that 8% of American children between the ages of 8 and 18, will have pathological gaming.

What is pathological gaming? This is considered gaming for more than 24 hours a week. This is twice the amount of time of those considered not to be pathological.

Most that meet this label are boys and are two times more likely to have ADHD. In 2013 the American Psychological Association decided to add internet gaming addiction to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Why is this important? Gaming addiction is related to lower grades, impaired executive and cognitive control, low self-esteem, and emotional distress.


People with ADHD are said to have “dysregulated attention systems”. This can lead your child to be distracted while doing homework but hyperfocused on playing video games, because of the instant reward that games provide. The goal is to redirect hyperfocus onto productive tasks. 

The Relationship

According to studies, there is a correlation between ADHD and pathological gaming. There is also evidence that screen time may contribute to attention problems. Video games and attention issues seem to be in a positive feedback loop in the brain. 

Risks of Gaming

Whether or not video games cause ADHD symptoms, it is still recommended to limit daily screen time for children. Refer to guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is to limit negative risks, including ADHD symptoms. 

Benefits of Gaming

Gaming with mindfulness can lead to many benefits- an increase in focus, memory, and executive functioning. To tap into this potential, discuss what skills are needed to win the game, encourage reflection on the game, and engage in activities that use the same skills. Some child-appropriate games are Roblox, Minecraft, and Bad Piggies. 

Breaking the Cycle

Gaming can be a difficult habit to break. It is important to encourage a productive conversation and expect strong emotions when breaking the cycle. Remember to offer fun alternatives to video gaming!

How can you help as a parent?

Some steps include:

  • Enforce a strict schedule
  • Explain to your child what is happening in their brain, and why they like to play.
  • Have video games in an open area when kids can be supervised. No screens in the bedroom.
Crista A. Hopp, M.A.
Crista A. Hopp, M.A.

Crista is trained to coach as an Academic coach, Executive Function (EF) coach, and individuals with ADHD. Crista can be reached through her website at