According to a recent study published in JAMA, children and teenagers who frequently use digital media are more likely to develop the symptoms of ADHD. In light of this, the researchers have now recommended that further research should be carried out to establish the links. Lead author of the study, Adam Leventhal, who is a psychologist and professor t the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine commented:
“If we can determine if there is a potential causal link that is consistent across studies, then we can design interventions to curb media exposure. Even simple educational information to let teachers, parents, and pediatric health professionals know that there could be an increased risk when they talk with their teens about digital media use might be helpful.”
He added: “ADHD’s been linked with substance use disorders during adulthood and even involvement in the criminal justice system, and the symptoms are distressing for the person affected. If we can identify any potential risk factor that is implicated in this disorder then that’s important, especially ones that are modifiable like digital media use.”
It’s estimated that ADHD affects around 5% of all children in the US; globally, the latest research shows a similar figure. The condition is more common in boys than in girls, and some of the symptoms include hyperactivity, impulsivity and restlessness. There are various treatments available, which includes behaviour therapy and medication.
This latest study was carried in in Los Angeles and the students that took part, who were aged 15 and 16, showed no significant symptoms of ADHD at the start of the study. Over a two year period data was collected at various time points about any possible symptoms of the condition, as well as their use of digital media, which included games, online shopping, social networking and streaming music and videos.
The results showed that, on average, 10% of the students who engaged in a larger amount of digital media activity reported some ADHD symptoms. Of the students who didn’t report engaging in digital media activities, 4.6% showed some ADHD symptoms. “Those percentages — like the 4.6% — reflect the average rates across the four different follow-ups,” Leventhal said.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Childhood Health, Behavior, and Development at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, described the study as “the best to date” when it comes to establishing a link between digital media use and ADHD symptoms. Even without a clinical diagnosis of ADHD, diminished attentional capacity is associated with poorer function both in childhood and in subsequent adulthood,” he said.