Study Associates Frequent Digital Media Use in Teens with ADHD Symptoms

The rise of smart phones, tablets, and other mobile technologies has put digital media, quite literally, at the fingertips of today’s youth. Most teens now have ready access to a smartphone, with about half spending the majority of their waking hours texting, checking social media sites, watching videos, or otherwise engaged online [1].

So, what does this increased access to digital media—along with the instant gratification that it provides—mean for teens’ health and wellbeing? In a two-year study of more than 2,500 high school students in Los Angeles, NIH-funded researchers found that those who consumed the most digital media were also the most likely to develop symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [2].

ADHD makes it difficult for a person to pay attention, sit still, or control impulsive behaviors. Symptoms of ADHD often occur in young children, but they can also arise in adolescence or even adulthood.

Earlier studies revealed a modest association between ADHD and the time that teens spend watching television or playing video games [3]. In the study now reported in JAMA, Adam Leventhal at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, and colleagues wondered how today’s expanded menu of digital media—with their rapid operational speeds, constant mental stimulation, and potential for excessive use—had affected teens.

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