Study data published in JAMA suggest an association between high frequency of digital media use and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among adolescents.
Baseline and 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-up surveys were administered to a cohort of students across 10 high schools in Los Angeles, California. Baseline surveys were conducted when participants were in 10th grade, and follow-up concluded when participants were in 12th grade. Surveys captured self-reported digital media use and frequency of 18 ADHD symptoms, including 9 inattentive symptoms and 9 hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. If students responded “often” or “very often” to 6 or more symptoms of ADHD, they were classified as ADHD symptom positive.
Among 2587 adolescents (54.4% girls; mean age, 15.5 years) who were ADHD symptom negative at baseline, 1398 (54.1%) reported a high frequency of checking social media. A mean value of 3.62 digital media activities were used at a high-frequency rate among study participants, with social media the most commonly reported. High-frequency engagement with any digital media activity at baseline was associated with higher risk for ADHD symptoms across follow-up periods (odds ratio 1.10; 95% CI, 1.05-1.15). Just 4.6% of those who reported no high-frequency use reported ADHD symptoms across follow-ups, compared with 9.5% of those who reported 7 high-frequency activities and 10.5% of those who reported 14 high-frequency activities. As such, use of multiple digital activities was associated with increased risk for subsequent ADHD symptoms, although the effect size remained relatively modest across study groups.
These results indicate an association between adolescent engagement in digital media activities and subsequent ADHD symptoms. Although further studies are needed to confirm this effect, these results highlight a specific harmful effect of digital media on adolescent development.
Ra CK, Cho J, Stone MD, et al. Association of digital media use with subsequent symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among adolescents. JAMA. 2018;320(3):255-263.