Smartphones have changed our lives in many ways. Information is readily available at our fingertips, as well as entertainment. Scrolling and swiping with opposable thumbs and digits we check in on social media, get directions, date, shop, etc.
We take refuge in our smartphones to avoid awkward social environments, to avoid human contact in places like standing in line, or pass the brief moments at a stoplight.
Previous studies have found teen smartphone use was associated with depression and isolation. A new study (July 2018) has found another detrimental effect of teenage smartphone use: ADHD symptoms.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by three symptomatic traits: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. To be clear, this new study involved 2000 teenagers that did not have ADHD. The children lived in Los Angeles County and were from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.12
Published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association, the findings of “Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents” are as follows:
Findings In this longitudinal cohort survey study of adolescents aged 15 and 16 years at baseline and without symptoms of ADHD, there was a significant association between higher frequency of modern digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD over a 24-month follow-up (odds ratio, 1.11 per additional digital media activity).3
The most common media activity reported by the teens was checking social media.
A useful exercise as a parent of a teen is to reflect on how screen time has affected your own behaviors.
- Are you tempted to check social media at any idle moment?
- Do you use your phone to avoid social situations in which you do not know anyone?
- Do you spend time away from your phone every day?
- Have you noticed any changes in your own attention as a result of social media or smartphone use?
The human brain needs idle time. It also needs exercise. When we rely on digital maps, for example, we lose our ability to find our own way and explore. When we occupy every spare moment scrolling and swiping, we lose the deep insight that comes from time to think.
The ADHD-like effects of screen time aren’t just felt by teenagers, but humans of all ages.
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