NASHVILLE (BP) – Teens who report high-frequency digital media use are twice as likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports. Christian mental health practitioners say excessive screen time can damage the soul as well.
“Screens today are the modern-day Baal,” said Joshua Straub, a marriage and family strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources, “the socially acceptable thing that keeps us from a deepening relationship with Jesus.”
The study, published July 17, “supports ongoing research that too much screen time is detrimental to our hearts, minds and souls,” Straub, a child psychologist, told Baptist Press in written comments. “Yet, for some reason we, as a society, seem to be ignoring the data.”
Among the digital platforms studied were social media, texting, internet browsing, streaming or downloading music, chatting online and streaming television or movies.
While 4.6 percent of teens who reported no use or moderate use of the digital platforms developed ADHD symptoms, 10.5 percent who used all 14 platforms many times per day exhibited symptoms, as did 9.5 percent who used half the platforms many times per day.
Chuck Hannaford, a clinical psychologist who served on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Mental Health Advisory Group, said the study “confirms much of what we already know. There is a link between social media, smartphone use, gaming and mental health in teens. It is not a positive connection.”
“Smartphones, social media and online gaming do have an impact on a developing youth,” Hannaford told BP in written comments. “Studies have linked excessive ‘screen time’ to mental health issues among youth. There are indications that those prone to depression and anxiety, in addition to deficits in cognitive functioning, can develop mental health issues.”
Young people need to pursue real relationships, not simply virtual ones,” said Hannaford.