The debate over the safety of screen time continues, even as tablet and smartphone use among kids is still fairly new and research is just beginning show some of the long-term effects. A new study has found that modern screen use may be linked to ADHD.

The study published this week in JAMA found that excessive screen use could lead to a higher risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in teens. Starting in 2014, researchers collected data on over 3,000 10th graders about their digital media use and any symptoms of ADHD. Every six months throughout the rest of high school they followed up with about 2,600 of the teens that met the study’s criteria to track screen use and determine if there was any increase in ADHD symptoms.

The study measured screen time by the high-frequency daily use of digital media actives, like watching videos, checking social media and texting. In the initial survey the students averaged 3.62 activities that were used many times per day. For students that reported more activities used daily at a high-frequency, each additional activity was associated with a 10 percent higher chance of developing ADHD symptoms later on.

Of the 114 students that initially recorded seven or more digital media activities used at a high-frequency 9.5 percent of them developed ADHD symptoms, versus just 4.6 percent of the 495 students who initially said they did not frequently use digital media.

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The researchers point out that the results do not prove that screen use causes ADHD. Only that there is an association between them. For example, a student who already has ADHD would be more likely to check social media more frequently as a result of their symptoms. More research is needed to determine how much influence digital media use has on attention span.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Pixabay

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