May 3 (UPI) -- A new study at Duke University suggests increased use of technology in adolescence is linked to attention, behavior and self-regulation problems for at-risk youth.
The study of 151 young adolescents looked at the relationship between mental health symptoms and the amount of time spend each day texting, using social media or the Internet.
The study participants, between age 11 and 15, were surveyed three times a day for a month using smartphones about their daily technology use, and then assessed for mental health symptoms 18 months later. All study participants were of lower socioeconomic status and were at a heightened risk for mental health issues.
The study showed that when adolescents used devices more, they were more likely to have behavior problems such as fighting, lying, attention issues and had attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms.
The higher amount of time spent online correlated with increased behavior and self-regulation problems even 18 months later.
Conversely, the study showed digital technology use was helpful to adolescents who experienced depression and anxiety.
"This finding makes sense when you think about how kids are commonly using devices to connect with their peers and social networks," Candice Odgers, professor in Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, said in a press release.
The study did not determine whether high levels of technology use were a marker of elevated same-day mental health problems or if the use of technology made existing symptoms worse.
All adolescents in the study were already deemed at an increased risk for mental health problems regardless of digital device use.
The study was published in Child Development.