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A resource turned sour, internet addiction linked to ADHD

What was once considered a distraction is now linked to a behavioral disorder

"Look At Your Phone," photo illustration published on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

"Look At Your Phone," photo illustration published on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

Heads down, phones in their laps, paying little attention to the lecturer — Students fail to recognize that their excessive attachment to their phones could develop into something larger like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Millennials are quick to defend their use of phones, claiming that communication is evolving into something better and more convenient. Very rarely, however, would they consider that their use of them could be linked to a behavioral disorder.

Although there has yet to be enough research done to fully substantiate the claim, researchers have been studying the emergence of ADHD as a direct or indirect result of excessive phone use, especially in children.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in 10 individuals in the U.S. have ADHD. Additionally, more than six million children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. alone, making it the most common behavioral disorder in the country.

The numbers only seem to rise. From 2003 to 2011, the percentage of children with ADHD in the country rose from 7.8 percent to 11 percent.

These rising numbers have been attributed partly to the significant increase in the use of technology, especially among the younger generation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children in the U.S. spend about seven and a half hours per day using devices with access to the internet. Thus, a multitude of researchers have inferred that the rise in the number of individuals afflicted with ADHD, and the rise in the use of technological devices are comorbid, or linked.

There has yet to be a consensus on this. However, it has been concluded that those with internet addiction have been found to have symptoms that closely parallel those of ADHD.

“We are not saying that Internet technologies and social media are directly causing ADHD,” Michael Pietrus, University of Chicago psychology professor said in a SXSW conference. “But the internet can impair functioning in a variety of ways … that can mimic, and in some cases, exacerbate underlying attention problems.”

Not only have researchers determined that symptoms of ADHD parallel symptoms of internet addiction, but they have also determined that the use of internet furthers the pre-existing symptoms of ADHD in children as well.


“Internet addiction has emerged as a global problem in recent years,” Paul Karoly Ph.D, ASU psychology professor, said. “There is a growing body of research (with which I am not involved) that shows that children and adults with ADHD show higher rates of internet addictions compared to the general population. Research is just beginning to probe the reasons. One study suggested that people with ADHD are unable to inhibit their excessive use of technology. It remains to be determined why this is the case.”

Viewing the problem from any perspective, it is clear that the excessive use of the internet or smartphones is not in the best interest of the general public. To develop symptoms that mimic those of ADHD is not conducive to success, especially in a college atmosphere.

Although it may seem like a lot to ask due to the ever-changing nature of communication and the use of the internet as the primary medium for social interaction, college students and children alike need to take a step back and acknowledge the harm that can be done by becoming attached to the internet.

Unfortunately, the problem has progressed, and some people will need to seek legitimate clinical methods to overcome their dependence.

“Methods of treating internet addiction are likely to parallel methods used for treating other addictions — cognitive behavior therapy, for example," Karoly said. 

Reach the columnist at or follow @ghirneise2 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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