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.

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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.