Excess Smartphone, Social Media and Tech Use by Teens Linked to ADHD Symptoms, Study Says

The current generation of teens is generally seen as heavy consumers of digital tech — smartphones, social media and the internet in particular. A new study has emerged, however, suggesting that this trend of habitual use of digital media could lead to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder over time.

A research team from the University of Southern California has found a "modest" link between the frequency of digital media use and the chance of developing ADHD symptoms in teens.

"More frequent use of digital media may be associated with development of ADHD symptoms," the team lead by Adam Leventhal of USC's Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory wrote in their findings, as published this Tuesday, July 17, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The team followed around 2,600 high school students over a two year period, covering the age range of 15 and 16 years. What they found over that time is something that would worry parents everywhere — the heaviest users of digital media were found to be almost twice as likely to start exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, according to Forbes.

The link is not yet conclusive, however, and more study will be needed to establish that digital media was the direct cause of the ADHD symptoms. For this study, the team examined how frequently the teens used social media, texting, streaming video and other platforms for a total of 14 categories.

Students with existing ADHD diagnosis were excluded from the study, in order to isolate ADHD development right from the start over the two-year span. "We can't confirm causation from the study, but this was a statistically significant association," Leventhal explained.

"We can say with confidence that teens who were exposed to higher levels of digital media were significantly more likely to develop ADHD symptoms in the future," he concluded.

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