No, social media is not giving your kid ADHD, but it might be giving your kid ADHD symptoms.
There is no clear link between screen time and ADHD in adolescents.* ADHD is a brain-based biological condition. It’s not something that you “get” because of something you did. However, most students aren’t diagnosed with ADHD until grade school, the same time social media usage is on the rise. So it could feel like screens are causing ADHD.
However, screen time could be affecting your child’s sleep, which looks a lot like ADHD symptoms.
It is true that parents are reporting an increase in ADHD-like behaviors. It’s also true that students are spending a lot more time on social media, and it’s indisputable that screen time interferes with sleep. So while it’s unclear how much of the increased reporting is social media related, it is very clear why parents might think their child has ADHD. Just take a look at the overlap between ADHD symptoms and the effects of sleep deprivation.
Understood.org lists these as three of the top ADHD symptoms:
- Overreacts to feelings and emotional situations
- Finds it hard to concentrate
- Is smart but doesn’t understand or “get” things you expect him to or that his peers grasp easily
Now look at Sleep.org‘s three of the top 5 signs your child is not getting enough sleep:
- Experiences mood swings
- Has trouble concentrating
- Feels unmotivated
It’s not surprising that there are increasing parental concerns about ADHD.
What should a parent do?
- Rule Out ADHD. If there is a chance that your child has ADHD, find out for sure. There are many ways to support students with ADHD, but they are very different than the supports you would provide a child who is suffering from sleep deprivation, anxiety or a host of other challenges. If you believe your child might have ADHD, consult with a child psychologist or psychiatrist. If you’re not ready for that step, consider an attention screener to see if your concerns are warranted.
- Plan for More Sleep. Help you child understand and appreciate the benefits of a good night’s sleep. It might take some cajoling, but assume your child NEEDS a full 8 hours of sleep per night. Look at your schedule. Create rules and routines that get you close to the goal.
- Adjust Screens. Ideally, turn off screens two hours before bedtime. Screens before bedtime disrupt sleep. The social media interactions probably don’t help either. If turning off screens isn’t practical, here are a few adjustments you can make to your child’s devices to reduce the effects of screens in the evening.
Have more questions about your child’s behavior? Check our expert advice section and learn more about common kid behaviors and what to do about them.
*New research does suggest that there could be a link for very young children and over-exposure to screens.