Study: Adolescent Screen Use Worsens ADHD Symptoms, Emotions, Family Environment
Too much screen time has significant negative impacts on adolescents with ADHD, according to a new study of Chinese children during the pandemic. Notably, children with ADHD and problematic digital media use experienced relatively more severe ADHD symptoms, emotions, lack of motivation, and unhealthy family dynamics.
April 23, 2021
Adolescents with ADHD and problematic digital media use (PDMU) experienced more severe ADHD symptoms, negative emotions, executive function deficits, strain on family environment, pressure from life events, and lower motivation to learn than those without PDMU, according to a new Global Health study of screen use during the pandemic.1 Home quarantine, online class, and lack of parental supervision has catalyzed PDMU during the pandemic for many children. Previous research has suggested that there is a close relationship between PDMU and ADHD, behavior problems, and emotional problems; this research sought to further explore that relationship.2
For the present study, 192 Chinese participants with ADHD, aged 8 to 16, were divided into two groups: those with PDMU — sometimes called digital dependency — and those without. Researchers then compared differences between the two groups in ADHD symptoms, executive function, anxiety and depression, stress from life events, learning motivation, and family environment. Digital media products included television, computer, cell phone, video games, and Internet.
The group with ADHD and PMDU experienced relatively more severe ADHD symptoms, emotions, and family problems, and its members spent significantly more time on video games and social media — and significantly less time on physical activity — compared to the group without PDMU.
Researchers concluded that “during a break from the classroom, parents of children with ADHD should adhere to prescribed medication for ADHD symptom management, while attempting to provide a good family environment, finding ways to manage negative emotions, increase physical exercise, and reduce the use of digital media products.”
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1 Shuai L, He S, Zheng H, Wang Z, Qiu M, Xia W, Cao X, Lu L, Zhang J. Influences of digital media use on children and adolescents with ADHD during COVID-19 pandemic. Global Health. 2021 Apr 19;17(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s12992-021-00699-z. PMID: 33874977.
2 Wiederhold BK. Does digital media use increase symptoms of ADHD in adolescents? Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2019;22(3):171–2. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2019.29143.bkw.