The Correlation between Technology and Adolescent Mental Health Particularly ADHD

Over the course of the preceding decades digital technology has spread relentlessly and become increasingly embedded in our lives. We use it for work, for school, to figure out directions, for communication and as a source of entertainment. For many parents, technology is a way to entertain children while they are too busy to engage with them and don’t want to pay for childcare. Children, to a greater extent than ever before, have access to these technologies and come to depend on it from an early age. However, this often has negative impacts on childhood development. It is possible that the use of smartphones, video games and social media have negative implications down the line. The aforementioned forms of technology create a dependency emotionally and may even be related to an increase in ADHD diagnoses. My research focuses on and examines the relationship between the expansion of the digital age and the effects it has on children and adolescents.

The following studies suggest that the overstimulation that digital technology, social media in particular provide lead to distractibility and impulsivity, both of which can be linked to ADHD. In a study titled, Association of digital media use with subsequent symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among adolescents, conducted in July 2018, researchers investigated whether or not there is an association between frequent use of digital platforms and the presence of ADHD symptoms in adolescence. The sample group was made up of 15 and 16 year olds who had not been diagnosed with symptoms of ADHD prior. They were observed over the course of twenty-four month period in conjunction with a significant increase in time spent on social media forums. The increase was measured by students self reporting their individual time spent on social media during the subsequent months. They were observed at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The measures of ADHD were based on self-rated frequency of 18 ADHD symptoms (never/rare, sometimes, often, very often) in the 6 months preceding the survey. The study concludes that there is in fact a statistically significant positive correlation between students who use digital technology with frequency and an increase in the presence of ADHD symptoms in these adolescents. Similarly, In a study conducted in 2018, titled Concurrent and subsequent associations between daily digital technology use and high?risk adolescents’ mental health symptoms, the researchers found that there was a robust association between adolescents’ reported daily digital technology usage and same?day symptoms of ADHD.

In a study conducted by Esra Yurumez Solmaz, Ahmet Gul, and Ozgur Oner in September 2017, they examined the impact of facebook on people who came from both ADHD diagnosed and non ADHD backgrounds. Using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS), Bergen FB Addiction Scale (BFAS) and Conners-Wells’ Adolescent Self-Report Scale-Long form (CASS:L), the researchers examined the relationship between an addiction to Facebook and Facebook usage. They looked at how the site impacts addiction to the site, impulsivity, and motivation. What they found is that the young people who were previously diagnosed with ADHD are more prone to be addicted to facebook in contrast to the people who had never been diagnosed. When it comes to smartphones, the number of users has grown exponentially over the last twenty years. In a study conducted in March of 2018, the researchers took a look at how individuals previously diagnosed with ADHD use and rely on smartphones. The researchers found that individuals with a prior diagnosis of ADHD tend to have a higher likelihood of feeling lonely and socially isolated than those without ADHD symptoms. They described how individuals with ADHD tend to have deficits in their social interaction skills and less social adeptness which they describe inevitably leads to loneliness and a need for connection. This loneliness and isolation leads to a desire to be seen and recognized and thus problematic usage of their smartphones and social media. In contrast, individuals who had a low likelihood of ADHD did not present with the same problematic use of smartphones.

Young children with ADHD tend to have a greater tendency to become addicted to video gaming. In a study conducted in 2017 titled Computer gaming disorder and adhd in young children”a population-based study researchers found, that in comparison to young children without ADHD, the children who were diagnosed with attention deficit disorders, spent significantly more time gaming. Similar to young people with ADHD who become addicted to Facebook, young children who became addicted to video games desired connection in their lives.

Based on these studies, it can be synthesized that an increase in technology usage from a young age can lead to a larger presence of ADHD symptoms. For individuals with a prior diagnosis of ADHD, digital technology often leads to addiction to the technology and inflames their tendency to be impulsive. These findings are not definite and more research would need to be done in order to determine if technology is in fact causal to and increase in ADHD.

References:

Paulus, F. W., Sinzig, J., Mayer, H., Weber, M., & Gontard, A. (2017). Computer gaming disorder and adhd in young children”a population-based study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-017-9841-0

Gul, H., Solmaz, E. Y., Gul, A., & Oner, O. (2018). Facebook overuse and addiction among Turkish adolescents: Are ADHD and ADHD-related problems risk factors? Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology,28(1), 80“90. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/24750573.2017.1383706

Ra, C. K., Cho, J., Stone, M. D., De La Cerda, J., Goldenson, N. I., Moroney, E., Leventhal, A. M. (2018). Association of digital media use with subsequent symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among adolescents. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 320(3), 255“263. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.8931

George, M. J., Russell, M. A., Piontak, J. R., & Odgers, C. L. (2018). Concurrent and subsequent associations between daily digital technology use and high?risk adolescents’ mental . . . . health symptoms. Child Development, 89(1), 78“88. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12819

Kim, J.-H. (2018). Psychological issues and problematic use of smartphone: ADHD’s moderating role in the associations among loneliness, need for social assurance, need for immediate connection, and problematic use of smartphone. Computers in Human Behavior, 80, 390“398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.11.025

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