Large Cohort Studies Find Little-to-No Evidence of Association Between ADHD and Digital Media Screen Time

These days, kids in America are using digital devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs more than ever. Some people worry that this might be linked to ADHD, a condition that makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors.

Two new studies tried to find out if there's a connection between screen time and ADHD. They used data from a big survey about kids' health across the U.S. One study looked at nearly 46,000 kids aged six to 17 over two years, from 2019 to 2020. The other study analyzed data from over 101,000 kids aged zero to 17, from 2018 to 2020.

The studies figured out if a child had ADHD by asking their caregivers if a doctor or health care provider ever told them that the child had ADHD.

Findings from the First Study

The first study found that kids who used screens for two to three hours a day were 22% more likely to have ADHD. Kids who used screens for four or more hours a day were 74% more likely to have ADHD compared to kids who used screens for less than two hours a day.

However, when the researchers considered other factors like the child's age, sex, poverty status, parents' education, race, and other health problems, the link between screen time and ADHD disappeared. They did find a small link between screen time and anxiety and depression, but no link at all with ADHD.

Findings from the Second Study

The second study also considered factors that might affect the results, but they didn't look at whether the child had other behavior problems. They found that for kids five years old and under, using screens for up to three hours a day didn't make them more likely to have ADHD. But kids who used screens for four or more hours a day were twice as likely to have ADHD compared to kids who used screens for less than an hour a day.

For kids aged six to 17, those who used screens for two hours a day were 11% more likely to have ADHD. Kids who used screens for three hours a day were 16% more likely, and kids who used screens for four or more hours a day were 32% more likely to have ADHD compared to kids who used screens for less than an hour a day.

Important Points to Remember

There are two key things to keep in mind from these studies:

  1. The differences found were pretty small.
  2. The first study suggested that anxiety and depression might actually be the reason for the link between screen time and ADHD, not the screen time itself.


Overall, these studies didn't find strong evidence that using digital devices causes ADHD in kids and teenagers. While there might be some small connections, other factors like anxiety and depression could play a bigger role.  Also, this was not a controlled experiment.  It is an observational study that cannot rule out many factors. It is importaant to consider that having ADHD causes one to use digital devices more frequently.

Guangbo Qu, Wenjing Hu, Jia Meng, Xingyue Wang, Wenqi Su, Haixia Liu, Shaodi Ma, Chenyu Sun, Christy Huang, Scott Lowe, Yehuan Sun, “Association between screen time and developmental and behavioral problems among children in the United States: evidence from 2018 to 2020 NSCH,” Journal of Psychiatric Research (2023), 161, 140-149,

Helal Uddin and Khalid Hasan, “Family resilience and neighborhood factors affect the association between digital media use and mental health among children: does sleep mediate the association?”, European Journal of Pediatrics (2023),

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