Ask Dr. Nandi: Could smartphone use be linked to ADHD in teens?

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 18:30:25-04

Smartphone use is ever present in our society and now it appears to be reshaping the way we think. And possibly not in a good way - a new study is now linking frequent use to ADHD in teens.

What are the details of this study?

First of all, I don’t want parents to panic.  Yes this study that took place over 2 years showed teens’ heavy use of digital media may increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.   But the researchers are not sure if the use of digital devices created these symptoms or if these kids would have developed the symptoms regardless  -and then spent more time on social media, watching streaming videos or playing games because they crave that kind of stimulation.  So more research is definitely needed before we can say smartphone use causes ADHD symptoms.  But I believe it’s something for parents to be very aware of when it comes to kids and media use.  

We know parents can struggle with kids and media use - today you asked on our WXYZ Facebook page if parents thought it affected their kid’s health.  What type of comments did you get?

I got a lot of interesting and concerning feedback from parents.  Nicole Ward posted that media use “does has an impact. Mostly on behavior. My kids get agitated when they play on them more, it becomes an addictive behavior when I take them away.”  And Milisa Gacaferi also posted “My 6yr craves the phone. (He) plays games like granny or watches YouTube. He has to earn time though”.  I can relate to these Moms as my kids also love their media time as well.  But it’s important that we place reasonable limits on what our kids can do.  Research has found that media does affect their health and can influence their beliefs and behaviors when it comes to violence, aggression, eating disorders, substance abuse and obesity.  And now this new study finds it may also lead to problems with focus, attention, and more difficulty when it comes to controlling impulses.  So it’s important for parents to be involved and talk to your kids about healthy limits on screen time.