Teenagers who spend lots of time surfing the web, playing games and chatting with friends on smartphones and tablets may be more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms than youth who don’t, a US study has suggested.
The findings, published July 17 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), offer a look at a question many parents may have: Can those ubiquitous digital devices — and their constant pull on kids’ attention — cause mental or behavioral issues?
Researchers followed more than 2,500 Los Angeles high school students over two years, asking about symptoms of ADHD and their digital media habits.
None of the students had ADHD symptoms at the start of the study. Teens who reported frequent use of a wide variety of digital media platforms at the start of the study, however, were about 10 percent more likely to develop ADHD, researchers reported in JAMA.
“This study raises new concerns whether the proliferation of high-performance digital media technologies may be putting a new generation of youth at risk for ADHD,” said senior study author Adam Leventhal, director of the Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Around 10 percent reported new problems with attention, focus or being still, which are hallmarks of ADHD. That compared with less than 5 percent of their peers who kept their device use to a minimum.
Hiwever, the findings do not prove that digital media are to blame, said Dr Jenny Radesky,an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, who wrote an editorial.
There are many other factors that could affect teenagers’ likelihood of reporting those symptoms, said Radesky.
The researchers accounted for the factors they could — such as family income and whether kids had depression symptoms, smoked or used drugs or alcohol at the outset. But there were things the researchers couldn’t measure, Radesky said.
A key missing piece, she said, is how parents influenced their kids. Teens who were not glued to their phones might have had parents who set more rules at home — or encouraged their kids to have “positive activities” that fostered their mental development.
“It’s one of the first to be able to look at this question longitudinally,” she said, meaning it followed the same group of teens over time.
With Agency Inputs
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