In a world of extreme sensory input, it can be hard to find a balance between screen time and time spent doing other activities.

Teenagers who spend a lot of time staring at their smartphones and engaging in social media and other digital pastimes are more likely to develop attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder according to new research, according to USA Today.

Four years ago, academics at the University of Southern California launched a longitudinal case study with a target date of two years of observation, with the focus of their inquiry being whether or not the amount and frequency of digital media consumption amongst teens was in any way correlated or linked to the onset or prevalence of ADHD.

The results were perhaps somewhat predictable and in line with common messaging on the matter: findings indicated that teenagers who were the most heavy users of digital media were actually twice as likely to develop new symptoms related to ADHD over the period of study when compared to participants within the group who spent the least time glued to their screens.

“This study raises concern whether the proliferation of high-performance digital media technologies may be putting a new generation of youth at risk for ADHD,” Adam Leventhal, lead researcher on the study and professor of preventative medicine at USC, reported. Levanthal also serves as the director of the school’s Health, Emotion, and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine on campus.

Previous research on a parallel bent focused on video game and television habits and their causal or correlative link to ADHD has already been conducted, this new research study being novel inasmuch as it specifically targets usage of contemporary social media most engaged with by teens — of particular interest to researchers because of their constant at-hand nature and bombardment of high-intensity stimuli.

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Parents and guardians should take particular note of the findings, especially when considered in the context of other research outcomes showing that teens spend an average of nearly nine hours per day using social media according to Common Sense Media. The CDC has produced survey results showing amongst their respondents that 43% of teens average 3 hours or more per day on social media platforms.

The USC scientists engaged with a group of 2,587 high school students ages 15 and 16 in Los Angeles County from a broad variety of demographic backgrounds. Only students currently showing an absence of ADHD symptoms were admitted into the respondent group.

The findings revealed that between 9.5 percent and 10.5 percent of the young men and women who were the heaviest users of the targeted social media platforms showed new ADHD symptoms, compared with the development of such symptoms in just 4.6 percent of the users who did not really engage with social media on a frequent basis.

The students began their relationship with the research scientists in Grade 10, and were surveyed at each six month marker point to track their behaviors, ending after a two year period when the same students were in Grade 12.



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