Television, ADD and ADHD

There is an association between the time spent in front of a screen and the increase in the diagnosis of ADHD or ADD. Current research is starting to shed some interesting light on the association between the two.

A study by Christakis et al. in 2004 found that the amount of time spent watching television at the young age of 1 and 3 was associated with attention problems by the age of 7. As a matter of fact, they found that television increased the chances of developing attention problems by 28%.

In other longitudinal studies where researchers follow children from earlier childhood, studies have found that the negative impacts of television continues to follow them through their teen years; also, these children continue to watch more television as they aged as well.

A study by Lillard et al researchers examined the effects of different types of television programming on executive function in children. Watching even just 9 minutes of fast paced cartoon on television, children did significantly worse on executive function tests such as self-control, delayed gratification, creativity, memory, critical thinking, and inhibitory control when compared the children who watched educated television or drew for 9 minutes. Unfortunately, the kids who watched the educational television, while they performed better than the fast-cartoon children, they did poorer than the kids who drew. Overall, television had a negative impact as compared to drawing.

There are many reasons which might explain why screen time destroys a child’s cognitive abilities and ability to focus. One of the reasons is the easiest, television and video games is basically just more interesting. Television and video games are flooded with attention grabbing cues (such as violence) to keep you addicted so you keep bringing in ratings or buying games. The second reason is that television has taken time from activities necessary to develop impulse control. A third reason for a lack of developing the skills necessary to focus or pay attention is that the child’s mind is at a very sensitive stage of development and fast paced television does not give children the necessary resources to develop concentrating neural networks.
The increased dependence on electronics in society is not without its price; its increasing presence is not only affecting how we do things, but is significantly altering our neurological networks, thus we are becoming more stupid.

Our society is becoming a generation of stimulation junkies. We click from website to website, change television channels as we please, while relying on an external stimulation. Viewing fast paced video games, fast paced movies, and addicting television is leading to a population who chooses to quit activities just because they are too hard or not entertaining enough and our need for instant gratification.

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