Bottom Line: Frequent use of digital media may be associated with the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in adolescence but more research is needed to know if the association is causal.
Why The Research Is Interesting: Digital media, including texting, video chatting and social media sites, are accessible, constantly available on mobile devices and intensely stimulating. But whether frequent use of this modern digital media is associated with the occurrence of ADHD symptoms in adolescence is unknown.
Who and When: 2,587 Los Angeles County high school students without symptoms of ADHD at study entry who were surveyed five times from September 2014 to December 2016.
What (Study Measures and Outcomes): Self-reported use of 14 different digital media activities, such as checking social media sites and texting (exposures); self-rated frequency of 18 ADHD symptoms in the six months preceding the survey (outcomes).
How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.
Authors: Adam M. Leventhal, Ph.D., University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, and coauthors
Results: Frequently using multiple forms of digital media was associated with a higher likelihood of ADHD symptoms occurring over a 24-month period during adolescence.
Study Limitations: A self-rating survey for ADHD symptoms is insufficient to determine an ADHD diagnosis; there also is the possibility of reverse causation (ADHD is associated with sensation seeking which could prompt digital media use to satisfy a need for stimulation); and undetected baseline ADHD symptoms cannot be ruled out.
Related material: The editorial, "Digital Media and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adolescents," by Jenny Radesky, M.D., University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, is also available on the For The Media website.
To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.
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