Let’s face it: screens are a defining feature in the lives of both children and adolescents. Whether it’s social media apps (i.e., Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Discord), YouTube videos, gaming, television, texting, listening to music or buying material goods, kids today are extremely adept at and focused on their phones, computers and tablets. But how can the constant desire to check social media affect our mental health? Especially for those with ADHD or neurodivergent needs.

Well, for starters it’s important to understand that virtual reality is their reality. There’s often no real difference between what happens online and in real life for those with ADHD. One question I’m often asked is “How do screens affect the development and behavior of our youngsters, especially those with ADHD?” Great question let’s talk about it.

A new study by Jason M. Nagata, Jonathan Chu and authors on (July 26, 2022) examined whether total screen time per day affected the onset of oppositional defiant and conduct disorders (ODD and CD) in children between the ages of nine and eleven. They found some interesting results.

First, the average amount of screen time per day was four hours. Secondly, for each hour of screen time or social media, the frequency of new onset disruptive behaviors included lying and sneaking. The strongest association was between social media and conduct disorder, with one hour on social media linked to a 62% higher rate of occurrence.

Now, what does this research mean for kids and teens with ADHD who already have higher rates of ODD (30-50% overall) and CD (25% in children and 45% in teens)? How can parents manage the intrusions of social media and screens in their families to avoid the development of disruptive behavioral conditions while fostering better emotional regulation and teach impulse control?