While there are many positive benefits of media consumption, excessive consumption can have negative consequences.
The average American consumer spends about 4.9 hours per day watching TV, 75 minutes per day on their smartphone and 62 minutes per day listening to radio (1). Many people spend most of their workday working on a computer.
TV and video gaming has been associated with adhd and related symptoms in a review of studies from 1987 to 2011 (2).
A recent study looked at many forms of digital media usage and adhd type symptoms (2).
Who was involved in the study? (3)
- 4100 students ages 15 and 16 years were followed for 2 years.
- Starting baseline and every 6 months, they were given surveys on digital media usage, inattention and hyperactivity.
How did the study define digital media (3)?
In this study digital media usage included using a variety of devices for social media, smart phone usage, streaming media, web browsing, messaging/video chatting, etc.
How did they define frequency of digital media usage? (3)
High-frequency (many times per day) vs other frequency levels (0, 1-2 times per week, 1-2 times per day).
What were the results? (3)
- Among students with no adhd symptoms to begin with, those who used digital media at high frequency were more as likely to report symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity compared to those use rarely used digital media.
- The most common high frequency media activity reported was checking social media.
- Over 2 years of follow up, the students who reported no high-frequency media use at baseline were half as likely to have ADHD symptoms across follow-ups vs students who reported 14 high-frequency activities.
What are some caveats?
- This is a large study of young adults followed over 2 years.
- They looked at many participants with little or no adhd symptoms to begin with.
- While this study shows an association between digital media usage and adhd symptoms, it does not necessarily show that one causes the other.
- This study was done on adolescents, which limits applicability of results to other age groups.
- Further study is needed.
What are some negative consequences of excessive screen time?
Excessive screen time can (4):
- Worse executive functioning
- Increase aggressive behavior due to violent media content
- Elevate depression risk
- Decrease sleep quality.
Some individuals may also spend less time sleeping because of screen usage; which can worsen daytime fatigue and productivity.
Other studies show that screen time can also worsen the physical health of adults in many different ways.
Oftentimes, excessive media consumption can take time away from other self-care activities.
Are there some useful ideas around media usage?
American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on media use for children and adolescents advise to (6,7):
- Prioritize activities that promote executive functioning and well-being, including
- Physical activity
- Distraction-free homework
- And positive interactions with family and friends.
- Encourages discussions about pro-social uses of media, digital citizenship, misinformation, and persuasion awareness—are relevant to the cognitive and emotional reactions to digital media of adolescents.
Consider periodic breaks, and rules around how often and how much media you consume electively.
- Consider limiting elective screen-time to less than 2 hours per day (5). Focus on quality instead of quantity.
- Some people find it useful to use a timer.
- There are apps that can help you limit excessive screen time.
- For other tips, go here
- In some cases excessive media consumption may be a red flag for mental health concerns.
Any other thoughts on media consumption?
- While there are no specific guidelines for adults, if most of your day studying or working in front of a screen, choosing to spend leisurely time spent on other electronic devices, phones, tablets etc. may not balance your life or your brain. It may lead to increased stress and fatigue.
- How much time are you spending on electronic devices? Is this making you productive or just busy?
- How do you feeling during and afterwards?
- How is this impacting your mental health, physical health, productivity, academics ?
- Have you set limits on elective media consumption and should you cut back?
- Should you be doing other activities to balance your life; such as sleep, exercise, cooking nutritious food, spending quality time with others, etc. ?
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.
- Nikkelen SW, Valkenburg PM, Huizinga M, Bushman BJ. Media use and ADHD-related behaviors in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. Dev Psychol. 2014;50(9):2228-2241. doi:10.1037/a0037318
- Ra CK, Cho J, Stone MD, et al. Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents. JAMA. 2018;320(3):255–263. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8931
- Reid Chassiakos Y., Radesky J., Christakis D., et al: Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Elk Grove Village (IL): The American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016.
- Radesky J. Digital Media and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adolescents. JAMA.2018;320(3):1–2. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8932
Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents.