Lots of Screen Time Linked to Symptoms of ADHD in Teens

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association should be considered in light of the increasing amounts of education tech schools have embraced.

Their findings are not surprising. Researchers noticed a link between loads of screentime and ADHD symptoms in teenagers. Any parent of a teenager, teacher, or youth worker has probably noticed this as well. I have noticed, anecdotally, a marked difference in teenagers’ attention spans with the onset of smartphones, etc. (heck I’ve noticed a marked difference in MY attention span as a result).

The Verge reports on the study (which is behind a paywall):

Today’s study monitored ADHD symptoms in a group of nearly 2,600 high school teenagers. Students who used multiple types of digital media multiple times a day were roughly twice as likely to report new symptoms of ADHD over a two-year period than their less digitally active classmates, according to the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Studies have linked digital media like social networks to changes in mental health before; Facebook use, for instance, has been linked to drops in well-being, but it’s hard to say what the cause is. In depression studies, one possibility is that depressed people who find it difficult to socialize are substituting online interaction for real-world interaction, which means the internet isn’t causing the depression at all. In today’s study, it’s possible that the emerging symptoms of ADHD are driving kids to the instant gratification of digital media. It could also mean that the constant distractions of the internet make it harder for adolescents to learn patience, impulse control, and focus, and lacking those things are hallmarks of ADHD.

This study didn’t say if more frequent digital media usage caused the ADHD symptoms or how those symptoms affected the teens’ lives. But it does make the case that these kids were using digital media before their symptoms started. “It’s not a doomsday scenario. It shouldn’t add to the moral panic about technology,” says Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study. But it is a reason for parents to talk to their kids about their motivations for and reactions to using technology.

Read the rest of the article.