Breaking News
October 24, 2018 - Loxo Oncology Announces Receipt of Breakthrough Therapy Designation from U.S. Food and Drug Administration for LOXO-292 for the Treatment of RET Fusion-Positive Thyroid Cancer
October 24, 2018 - Analysis of largest set of genomes from pregnant women reveals genetic links to disease, birth outcomes
October 24, 2018 - New vaccine strategy shows promise to protect chickens against serious respiratory disease
October 24, 2018 - First Asia Reference Center in Singapore
October 24, 2018 - New partnership aims to tackle cancer health disparities
October 24, 2018 - Two Roche Diagnostic tests identified as transformative
October 24, 2018 - Cocaine overdoses on the rise with fentanyl combo flooding the market
October 24, 2018 - Radiotherapy combined with androgen-deprivation therapy improves overall survival up to 10 years
October 24, 2018 - Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Receives FDA Approval of Khapzory (levoleucovorin) for Injection
October 24, 2018 - Researcher uses smartphone to detect breast cancer gene
October 24, 2018 - Advanced breast cancer patients can benefit from immunotherapy-chemotherapy combination
October 24, 2018 - Stress related to social stigma negatively impacts mental health of autistic people
October 24, 2018 - New 17-item questionnaire may help detect GI disorders in children with autism
October 24, 2018 - 12% of frequent marijuana smokers experience cannabis withdrawal syndrome
October 24, 2018 - Immune therapy may be potential treatment option for patients with hard-to-treat ankylosing spondylitis
October 24, 2018 - Poor Experience With PCP Linked to Hospitalization in CKD
October 23, 2018 - Dummies not to blame for common speech disorder in kids
October 23, 2018 - The future of ethics and biomedicine: An interview
October 23, 2018 - X4 Pharmaceuticals announces clinical data of X4P-001-IO and Opdivo in patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma
October 23, 2018 - FDA targets 465 websites that sell potentially dangerous, unapproved drugs
October 23, 2018 - New approach may lead to better diagnostic techniques for autoimmune disorders
October 23, 2018 - Innovative computer software sheds new light on genetic processes underlying deadly diseases
October 23, 2018 - Juul Drawing Lots of Teen Followers on Twitter
October 23, 2018 - WHO says Zika risk low in Pacific ahead of Meghan visit
October 23, 2018 - A deeper look at ‘Reflecting Frankenstein’
October 23, 2018 - Breastfeeding can have protective affect against high blood pressure in women, confirms study
October 23, 2018 - Epigenetic modifications may contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease
October 23, 2018 - Volunteering for peer counseling programs benefits people with lupus
October 23, 2018 - Cancer treatment may undergo a paradigm shift to immunotherapy soon
October 23, 2018 - Study uncovers new mechanism of action in a first-line drug for diabetes
October 23, 2018 - New type of molecule shows early promise against treatment-resistant prostate cancer
October 23, 2018 - Lancet publishes pioneering study of Aimovig’s efficacy in episodic migraine patients
October 23, 2018 - Scientists grow functioning human neural networks in 3D from stem cells
October 23, 2018 - Using mushrooms as a prebiotic may help improve glucose regulation
October 23, 2018 - New ENT clinic treats children in Zimbabwe
October 23, 2018 - CUIMC Celebrates 2018-2019, Issue 2
October 23, 2018 - Immunotherapy is better than chemotherapy as first-line treatment for advanced head and neck cancer
October 23, 2018 - Intake of painkillers during pregnancy linked to early puberty in future offspring
October 23, 2018 - ConnectToBrain project seeks to improve techniques for brain stimulation in current clinical use
October 23, 2018 - Polyganics begins first-in-human clinical trial of LIQOSEAL for reducing CSF leakage
October 23, 2018 - Gut bacterial community of healthy adults recovers after short-term exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics
October 23, 2018 - Lowering systolic blood pressure does not damage the kidneys, shows study
October 23, 2018 - Incyte Announces Positive Data from Phase 2b Trial of Ruxolitinib Cream in Patients with Atopic Dermatitis
October 23, 2018 - Cardiovascular admissions more common among most deprived
October 23, 2018 - Targeted drug and hormone therapy combination extends breast cancer survival
October 23, 2018 - Map of human liver cells reveals molecular make-up of individual cells
October 23, 2018 - Drugs approved for breast cancer treatment are effective and well tolerated in men
October 23, 2018 - EKF introduces new hand-held lactate analyzer for rapid sports performance monitoring
October 23, 2018 - Researchers identify common genetic connection in lung conditions
October 23, 2018 - Forbius initiates Phase 2a trial evaluating efficacy, safety of AVID100 in patients with squamous NSCLC
October 23, 2018 - Immunotherapy achieves major pathological response in early-stage mismatch repair deficient colon cancer
October 23, 2018 - New discovery may lead to better treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients
October 23, 2018 - FDA Approves Dupixent (dupilumab) for Moderate-to-Severe Asthma
October 23, 2018 - Researchers identify immune culprits linked to inflammation and bone loss in gum disease
October 23, 2018 - Despite lower risk factors, black men have higher rates of recidivism
October 23, 2018 - Study finds why pregnant women in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan prefer cesarean delivery
October 23, 2018 - AbbVie’s U-ACHIEVE Phase 2b/3 dose-ranging study improves outcomes in patients with ulcerative colitis
October 23, 2018 - NCI grant awarded to Abramson Cancer Center to study CAR T cells In solid tumors
October 23, 2018 - Scientists use electron microscope to study chemical transformation in catalytic cross-coupling reaction
October 23, 2018 - Research offers new hope to men who received childhood cancer treatment
October 23, 2018 - New medical navigation system receives international innovation award
October 23, 2018 - Adverse Childhood Experiences Tied to Burnout in BSN Students
October 23, 2018 - High levels of oral disease among elite athletes affecting performance
October 23, 2018 - Study examines effect of immediate vs delayed pushing during labor on delivery outcomes
October 23, 2018 - LU-RRTC to spearhead capacity-building efforts for racial and ethnic populations
October 23, 2018 - Maintenance therapy with olaparib improves progression-free survival in advanced ovarian cancer patients
October 23, 2018 - Organic food may protect against cancers finds study
October 23, 2018 - Interweaving anxiety disorder associated with stuttering remains unrecognized
October 23, 2018 - Cannabis oil shown to significantly improve Crohn’s disease symptoms
October 23, 2018 - Knowledge of sex differences in lower urinary tract may help stimulate breakthroughs in diagnosis, management
October 23, 2018 - Common antibodies associated with myocardial infarction
October 23, 2018 - Study reveals new treatment option for women with advanced breast cancer resistant to hormone therapy
October 23, 2018 - Brain’s ‘Self-Control’ Center May Be Key to Weight-Loss Success
October 23, 2018 - Prosthetic valve mismatches common in transcatheter valve replacement, ups risk of death
October 23, 2018 - Can virtual reality help people become more compassionate?
October 23, 2018 - Screen time eclipsed outdoor time for most students, shows study
October 23, 2018 - SLU researcher seeks to find solutions for ‘chemo brain’ symptoms and side effects of opioids
October 23, 2018 - Plastics now commonly found in human stools
October 23, 2018 - Zoledronic acid increases disease-free survival in premenopausal women with HR+ early breast cancer
October 23, 2018 - Cancer survivors at risk for heart failure during, after pregnancy
Study shows link between teens’ copious amounts of screen time and ADHD

Study shows link between teens’ copious amounts of screen time and ADHD

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Credit: Petr Kratochvil/public domain

What with all the swiping, scrolling, snap-chatting, surfing and streaming that consume the adolescent mind, an American parent might well watch his or her teen and wonder whether any sustained thought is even possible.

New research supports that worry, suggesting that teens who spend more time toggling among a growing number of digital media platforms exhibit a mounting array of attention difficulties and impulse-control problems.

In a group of more than 2,500 Los Angeles-area high school students who showed no evidence of attention challenges at the outset, investigators from the University of Southern California, University of California at Los Angeles and UC San Diego found that those who engaged in more digital media activities over a two-year period reported a rising number of symptoms linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The association between digital media use and ADHD symptoms in teens was modest. But it was clear enough that it could not be dismissed as a statistical fluke. On average, with each notch a teen climbed up the scale of digital engagement, his or her average level of reported ADHD symptoms rose by about 10 percent.

The results do not show that prolific use of digital media causes ADHD symptoms, much less that it results in a level of impairment that would warrant an ADHD diagnosis or pharmaceutical treatment.

Indeed, it’s possible the relationship is reversed—that attention problems drive an adolescent to more intensive online engagement.

But at a time when 95 percent of adolescents own or have access to a smartphone and 45 percent said they are online “almost constantly,” the new study raises some stark concerns about the future of paying attention. It was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings come as mental health professionals are rethinking their understanding of ADHD, a psychiatric condition that was long thought to start in early childhood and last across a lifetime. Marked by impulsivity, hyperactivity and difficulty sustaining attention, ADHD is estimated to affect about 7 percent of children and adolescents.

But the disorder is increasingly being diagnosed in older teens and adults, and in some it waxes and wanes across a lifespan. Whether its symptoms were missed earlier, developed later or are brought on by changing circumstances is unclear.

The new research, involving 2,587 sophomores and juniors attending public schools in Los Angeles County, raises the possibility that, for some, ADHD symptoms are brought on or exacerbated by the hyper-stimulating entreaties of a winking, pinging, vibrating, always-on marketplace of digital offerings that is as close as the wireless device in their pocket.

“We believe we are studying the occurrence of new symptoms that weren’t present at the beginning of the study,” said USC psychologist Adam M. Leventhal, the study’s senior author.

The study “is just the latest in a series of research findings showing that excessive use of digital media may have consequences for teens’ well-being,” said San Diego State University psychologist Jean M. Twenge, who has conducted research on teens and smartphone use but was not involved in the new work.

Twenge’s research, published this year in the journal Emotion, explored a sharp decline in U.S. teens’ happiness and satisfaction since 2012. Combing through the data from 1.1 million teens, Twenge and her colleagues found dissatisfaction highest among those who spent the most time locked onto a screen. As time spent in offline activities increased, so did happiness.

Leventhal and his colleagues assessed the digital engagement of their 15- and 16-year-old subjects five times over a two-year period—when they first entered the study and four more times at six-month intervals. They asked the students to think back over the last week and report whether and how much they had engaged in 14 separate online activities. Those included checking social media sites, browsing the web, posting or commenting on online content, texting, playing games, video chatting, and streaming TV or movies.

Depending on how many of those activities a student reported and how frequently he or she reported engaging in them, the researchers assigned the student a “cumulative media-use index” between 1 and 14.

Four out of five students acknowledged “high frequency use” of at least one activity, including 54 percent who told researchers they checked social media “many times per day.” Just over two-thirds engaged in high-frequency use of up to four online activities at some point during the study’s course.

Students were also asked whether they had experienced 18 ADHD symptoms, including problems with organization, completing work, staying still or remaining on task. If they acknowledged having any six of them, they were considered to be “ADHD symptom-positive.” At various points in the study, anywhere from 4.8 percent to 6.9 percent of the subjects met this criteria.

The additional risk that came with climbing the ladder of “media use intensity” was pretty modest: about 10 percent for each step up.

But compared to the lightest users, the teens who engaged most intensively were more than twice as likely to be symptom-positive. Among the 495 students who reported no high-frequency media use at baseline, 4.6 percent were categorized as symptom-positive at some point. Among the 114 who engaged in seven digital activities many times a day, 9.5 percent were seen to be symptom-positive during the follow-up. And for the 51 students who reported high-frequency use of all 14 digital activities, 10.5 percent met the symptom criteria.

That twofold increase in the odds of being symptom-positive “is not a small effect,” Twenge said. In effect, it suggests that if a teen who is a high-intensity digital user could be weaned from his devices, he might drive down his risk of significant ADHD symptoms by as much as half.

“Most of the time, a lifestyle change that halves the risk of a poor outcome is more than worth undertaking,” Twenge said. In the annals of disease prevention research, “the vast majority of interventions are less effective.”

Moreover, she added, digital media use is something a teen can change. Genes and traumatic life experience—both factors in a person’s risk for ADHD—are not so amenable to behavior modification.

The study authors acknowledged that some of the students may have had attention problems that did not raise any flags at the outset but were significant enough to drive their outsized use of digital media. Since ADHD is linked to sensation-seeking behavior, and digital media use is highly stimulating, subjects with “subclinical” attention problems might have become the study’s heaviest digital users. As the study unfolded, their symptoms may simply have become more pronounced.

To rule out other influences, the team adjusted the raw data to account for factors that are already strongly linked to ADHD, including male gender (boys are more than twice as likely as girls to have been diagnosed with ADHD), a family history of substance use, depressive symptoms and delinquency. The findings still held.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, University of Michigan pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky wrote that the “always on” quality of digital media may rob the adolescent brain of the ability to rest and refresh in what brain scientists call the “default mode.” Teens pining for the next hit of digital affirmation may lose the ability to tolerate boredom, she wrote, and an unending stream of notifications may reduce a child’s ability “to stay focused on challenging, nonpreferred tasks.”

But that may not fully explain the study’s results. If manic digital engagement is displacing sleep and exercise, that would readily explain a child’s slipping executive function, wrote Radesky, a behavioral developmental specialist.

Dr. Lawrence Diller, a child psychiatrist and ADHD specialist who has practiced for more than four decades in Walnut Creek, Calif., expressed skepticism as well.

“It’s attractive to think that somehow exposure to constantly changing media information might somehow either make an adolescent inattentive or distractible,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.”

Diller said he suspected that kids spending a lot of time on social media and gaming aren’t that interested in school or the chores their parents have assigned them, so they’ve simply found an alternative outlet for their energies.

“I’d be very interested in seeing these kids in five to 10 years,” said Diller, author of the books “Running on Ritalin” and “Remembering Ritalin.” “Their life situation has changed and I’d bet you find that the gaming and social media tails off. They have other things they want to get to.

“It’s seductive to think that TV and video games and social media change the brain,” he added. “Maybe they do. But if that’s the case, the brain can change back.”


Explore further:
Digital media use linked to behavioral problems in kids

Journal reference:
Journal of the American Medical Association

Emotion

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles