Teens, Cellphones and ADHD

Is your teen glued to their cellphone? A recent piece by NPR journalist Rhitu Chatterjee should boost your confidence to set limits on cell phone use. She discussed a new research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing an association between the development of ADHD symptoms and high cell phone use in teens.

What’s a parent to do?
In my previous blog post, I talked about the association between too much cell phone use and symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens (July 22, 2018) and the fact that simply reducing cell phone use, does not fully protect kids from developing problems. That’s because it is life’s current dangers that are troubling teens more than anything else. Fortunately, your relationship can be a buffer against their fears and worries. 

Association is not the same as causation.  The research makes clear that the findings are just a correlation between phone use and ADHD symptoms. There is no proof of cell phones causing ADHD. And while kids showed symptoms of ADHD no teen was given an actual diagnosis of ADHD. Finally, it was only a 10% increase in those kids who showed ADHD symptoms.

Whether it be the researchers or therapists working with kids, there is growing evidence of increased socio-emotional and cognitive problems in kids from childhood through adolescence, and that at least some of this increase is traced to the high use of screens of all types. The point is parents need to just say NO! more often to screens. If you are having a hard time doing that, Reflective Parenting can help you get better at the limit setting.

Self-reflection is important too. Let’s be honest, parents these days are also addicted to their cell phones, laptops, and other devices. And how well are you doing reducing your cell phone use? Yes, set limits. But also have to be understanding and empathic. It is much harder for teens to withdraw from screens because the teen brain is more responsive to the ‘reward kick’ that screens provide.

Written by Regina Pally, Co-Director, CRC

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