DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Teenagers these days - they are so constantly plugged into mobile devices - texting friends, checking social media, streaming music. Well, a new study suggests that all that screen time may put teenagers at risk of developing symptoms of ADHD. NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee has more.
RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have trouble focusing and controlling their impulses. Old-fashioned screen time - TV and video games - has been shown to put kids at risk of this disorder. Psychologist Adam Leventhal wanted to know if modern screens - phones, tablets, laptops - also have a similar impact.
ADAM LEVENTHAL: The new modern devices have such a high performance level. They're so fast. They're accessible all the time.
CHATTERJEE: Leventhal is at the University of Southern California. He and his colleagues studied high school students in Los Angeles County over a period of two years.
LEVENTHAL: We worked with 10 high schools, and we surveyed 2,587 high school students at the beginning of 10th grade.
CHATTERJEE: They gave the students a questionnaire listing the symptoms of the disorder, a standard part of ADHD diagnosis. They only studied teens who showed no symptoms at the beginning of the study. Over the next two years, the researchers came back every six months and surveyed the students again on their symptoms. They also asked the students how frequently they participated in numerous mobile or online activities, everything from...
LEVENTHAL: Social media use, like Instagram, to video streaming, like Netflix, to even texting.
CHATTERJEE: They found that, by and large, the kids who were more heavily engaged with digital activities had a higher prevalence of symptoms. In the group that did all of the listed activities many times a day, 1 in 10 showed symptoms.
LEVENTHAL: So to have 10ish percent have an occurrence of new symptoms is fairly high.
CHATTERJEE: Now, the study did not diagnose any kids with ADHD. The diagnosis requires a clinician. But Leventhal says the appearance of symptoms over time is troubling. Jenny Radesky agrees. She's a pediatrician at the University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital. She wasn't involved in the new study, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
JENNY RADESKY: It's the first piece of longitudinal research where children have been followed over time and there have been very relevant measures of the type of media that children are using today.
CHATTERJEE: Radesky says parents should spend time with their kids discussing and unpacking what they do online and why they do it.
RADESKY: So that they don't all feel this pressure to be online constantly in order to feel social acceptance or to feel relevance.
CHATTERJEE: And that, she says, can help them be more selective in their use of mobile devices. Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.
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