Is technology causing an increase in attention disorders?

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Mikaela Ponce

We live in a world ruled by technology and distractions. With technology always surrounding us, and creating a world where multiple things demand our attention at once, it makes us wonder if technology is causing an increase in ADHD and other attention disorders.

Prevalence of diagnosed ADHD in kids ages 4-17 has increased by 4.1 percent in the past 20 years. Of these kids diagnosed with ADHD, 14.5 percent have a severe case, 43.7 have a moderate case, and 41.8 percent have a mild case.

There are many factors that cause an attention disorder, the main one being genetic and involving the chemical makeup of your brain. Other factors include environmental toxins, and exposure to substances that change the chemical makeup of your brain (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Technology, however, is not that great of a factor.

While technology may not cause ADHD, people may display symptoms of ADHD because of it. This is most prevalent when we get notifications. All notifications draw our attention away, and we get an impulse like we have to look at it immediately.

“This is an immediate draw on his attention, away from whatever he was learning. It creates a high level of stimulation with alerts and notifications and advertisements that can cause teens to have more difficulty focusing and staying on task,” Dr. Manos further explains.

So maybe the difficulty in focus comes from being constantly surrounded by other things, and constantly trying to multitask no matter how impossible it is.

Multitasking is physically impossible. While you may think you’re doing two things at once, your brain is actually just switching back and forth between tasks. Because of this, you’re missing out on some information, and when there’s too much going on it makes it really hard to focus.

Upon conducting a survey in which 24 people participated, it was found that 92% did homework with something in the background (music, movie, TV). While they said it did not affect their ability to focus, 92% did say there were certain subjects that they couldn’t do that with, in which they had to solely focus on the subject. However, the opposite was also true. 88% said they could only perform certain tasks with music in the background (mainly absentminded tasks, like cleaning, doing makeup, getting ready, laundry, and driving). This is a display of symptoms of ADHD and ADD, needing music in the background to focus, however not a diagnosis or proof of technology causing an attention disorder.

Everyone said they randomly look at their phone absentmindedly, showing how technology can be a powerful distraction.

Either way, it’s a good idea to step away from all technology every once in a while.

“I can’t focus on anything. I’m constantly crowded by things to do, parents interrupting me or texting me for the smallest thing and expecting me to respond ASAP, multiple different friends trying to make plans, my coworker trying to plan something for work, loads of homework, and my own music in the background. When I get on my phone, or even my computer, I’m constantly jumping between apps. However, when I spend some time away from everything, the fog in my mind disappears. It’s like I can finally see clearly for a second.”-undisclosed source.