From the no-sh*t Sherlock school of research comes a study in JAMA that supports that idea that too much use of digital media may lead to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. (JAMA Article) Ooooh, look at that cool cat video on YouTube. Wait, where was I, oh yeah, digital media and ADHD. The researchers did a two-year longitudinal study, wow, look at the neat instagram of my fourth cousin’s breakfast, oops, sorry, lets see, picking up where I left off, hopefully, a two-year longitudinal study of teenagers in Los Angeles high schools. They evaluated the impact of use of 14 digital media activities. They were particularly focused on, oh, Jeez, that is one mean tweet and wow, look at all the retweets and reactions, sorry again, where was I, oh yeah, teenagers without baseline ADHD symptoms. There was a very clear association between subsequent extent of use of digital media and development of ADHD symptoms. Hold on a sec, gotta check that Facebook post, oops, there is a link there to video I have to see, and uh, it says there are some other videos I might like too. Okay, back to our feature presentation, there also appeared to be an association with other mental health symptoms, which isn’t surprising given the amount of cyber-bullying and other nonsense that goes on in social media.
Very seriously, this is a big problem, I watch in public how much parents have even very young children using iPads and phones. I see how teenagers are just constantly looking at and interacting with phone screens. There is no question that all this activity affects brain activity and sense of self. It is not a good thing from a variety of perspectives. We have recently had research about the association with people feeling lonely and depressed due to excessive social media use. While humans long for real interpersonal connections, that is not what this is, so it can’t be a surprise that it adversely affects people’s mental health. And children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable. I am not sure how you address this in a free society. Parent should be playing the most significant role in limiting exposure and use. Schools probably can play a role and phones and other devices should be subject to a if you bring it to school it gets locked up for the day rule. Technology is not always our friend.