ADHD Symptoms

Teens who spend a lot of time using digital media are more prone to developing ADHD symptoms, according to a new study, though this does not mean that parents should take away their sons’ and daughters’ smartphones. Previous studies have revealed that smartphone addiction has resulted in unhappiness and depression among teenagers, showing that obsessive exposure to digital media is not good for mental health.

ADHD in Teens Linked to Digital Media Use

A new study published in the JAMA medical journal revealed that there is a connection between the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in teenagers and how much they used digital media.

ADHD symptoms include more severe, frequent, or debilitating cases of inattention, restlessness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It affects more boys than girls and is present in around 5 percent of children in the United States.

The study that linked the disorder to digital media exposure involved 2,587 students in 10 high schools across Los Angeles County in California. When the study started in the fall of 2014, the students were 15 to 16 years old and showed no significant ADHD symptoms. Follow-up data was then collected in the spring and fall of 2015 and 2016.

At the start of the study and in each of the time points, the students completed a form that measured ADHD symptoms, including nine symptoms for inattention and nine symptoms for hyperactivity and impulsivity. The students also stated how often they were using digital media through activities such as playing digital games, streaming content, video chatting, texting, or accessing social networks.

The results of the study showed that, on average, 9.5 percent of students who reported high-frequency engagement in seven digital media activities reported ADHD symptoms. The figure increased to 10.5 percent for those who reported high-frequency engagement in all 14 digital media activities.

In comparison, only 4.6 percent of the students who said that they were not using digital media were found to have ADHD symptoms.

Should Parents Ban Teens From Using Smartphones?

While the study found a plausible link between ADHD symptoms among teens and their digital media usage, parents should not panic and cut off teenagers from technology.

The study did not establish whether digital media causes the ADHD symptoms to develop or if teenagers who develop ADHD are more prone to heavy digital media usage.

“It’s not a doomsday scenario. It shouldn’t add to the moral panic about technology,” said Jenny Radesky, a University of Michigan assistant professor of pediatrics who was not involved in the research. It is a reason, however, for parents to reach out to their children regarding their usage of technology.