Re­search finds dig­i­tal ac­tiv­ity light­ens teen moods in short run

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - SCOTT CANON

In the short term, new re­search sug­gests, us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy can help kids prone to men­tal health prob­lems keep de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety at bay.

Over time, how­ever, re­searchers con­cluded that more tech use is linked to at­ten­tion, self-reg­u­la­tion and be­hav­iour prob­lems for those ado­les­cents at risk for men­tal health is­sues.

The Duke Univer­sity study pub­lished May 3 in an is­sue of Child Devel­op­ment, finds that even though ado­les­cents re­ported feel­ing slightly bet­ter on days when they were us­ing tech­nol­ogy that their be­hav­iour prob­lems in­creased.

“They ex­pe­ri­ence more con­duct prob­lems and higher ADHD symp­toms com­pared to days they use tech­nol­ogy less,” lead au­thor Madeleine J. Ge­orge told Eu­reka-Alert, a pub­li­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence.

The re­search ex­am­ined a po­ten­tial re­la­tion­ship be­tween ado­les­cents’ men­tal health and time spent tex­ting, on so­cial me­dia or the In­ter­net gen­er­ally. It queried 151 young ado­les­cents, some­what iron­i­cally, through sur­veys on their smart­phones.

Re­searchers asked about their dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy use three times a day for a month. A year and a half later, the same 11- to 15-year-olds un­der­went men­tal health as­sess­ments.

Those kids av­er­aged 2.3 hours a day us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing an hour send­ing an av­er­age of 41 texts.

On days of heavy use, their like­li­hood of fight­ing, ly­ing or dis­play­ing symp­toms of at­ten­tion deficit and hy­per­ac­tiv­ity ticked up.

The re­searchers said it was un­clear whether the tech use drove the prob­lems, or was just another symp­tom — the clas­sic cau­sa­tion or cor­re­la­tion mys­tery.

The fact that they re­ported bet­ter moods on days when they were us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy more, the re­searchers said, might in­di­cate that their gad­gets al­low them to make more so­cial con­nec­tions and feel stronger ties to their peers.


A Duke Univer­sity study cor­re­lates prob­lem be­hav­iour among chil­dren with men­tal health prob­lems and their use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy.

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