A Lot of Screen Time Linked to Symptoms of ADHD in New Study

A new study has found that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms could be directly linked with how much time you spend on-screen. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a survey on 2,600 school teenagers and found the results.

The researchers advised parents to not panic and instead talk to their child about reducing screen time. The study also said that kids suffering from ADHD or its symptoms look for instant gratification on digital media.

The Survey

The study doesn’t hint at digital media being the cause of ADHD symptoms, however, it does say that teenagers used digital media before the symptoms appeared.

Adam Leventhal, a University of Southern California professor led the research. Initially, around 2,800 teens were included in the survey. The ones who already showed significant ADHD symptoms were removed from the survey to learn what came first: the digital use or the ADHD symptoms. After this, 2,600 students from 10 different schools in Los Angeles County were involved in the survey.


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The survey asked students to answer the questions and rank them against 14 different types of digital media use. This included questions like “I’m easily distracted” or “I don’t listen when spoken to directly”, and how often does one check social media, text friends, or use streaming platforms etc. The survey was carried out for two years over periodic intervals after which the results were published.

The Results

As per the published results, 81% of students used at least one form of digital media every day. This included social media or texting, which is common among all age groups. The results added that with the use of additional digital platforms, the chances of ADHD symptoms increased.

In the survey, 495 teens told that their use of digital media is rare. This group showed a 4.6% chance of reporting ADHD symptoms in the next survey. The number increased to 9.5% for another group of 114 students who used 7 of the 14 digital media platforms. The students who used all 14 platforms frequently showed a 10.5% chance of reporting ADHD symptoms.


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Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor at Michigan University told,

It’s not a doomsday scenario. It shouldn’t add to the moral panic about technology.

About the cause and issues that take students to heavy digital media use, Radesky added,

The biggest ones are poverty or psychosocial stress or family dysfunction. All of those correlate with heavy media use, and all of them correlate with attention problems.

She suggested that parents worried about the excessive use of digital media should talk to their children. She says:

There are so many teachable moments in technology use because no one knows the best way to do this. We’re all just trying it out, every day.


The biggest limitation of the study is the self-reporting of the symptoms. People sometimes forget to mention the symptoms or are reluctant to even admitting them, the study fails to incorporate this factor. Another factor is that the study didn’t address the cause behind the increased symptoms.

However, the researchers of the study agreed on one of the causes behind it and that is phone notifications. They told that the notifications could be the distracting the students and taking their attention to their devices. The readily available options like hundreds of TV series just two clicks away and multiple social media platforms could be the reason why teens look for instant gratification.

Via The Verge