Understanding Problematic Social Media Use in Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Narrative Review and Clinical Recommendations

Brain Sci. 2022 Nov 26;12(12):1625. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12121625.


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is consistently associated with a host of social problems, such as victimization and difficulties in maintaining close friendships. These problems are not limited to offline relations but also manifest in the online social world, as previous research shows that ADHD is associated with problematic use of social media. Given the ubiquitous nature of social media, the goal of the current review is to understand why adolescents with ADHD demonstrate more problematic social media use than their typically developing peers. To this end, we provide a narrative review on the evidence for the link between ADHD and social media use, and consequently present an integrative framework, which encompasses neurobiological mechanisms (i.e., imbalance theory of brain development and dual pathway model of ADHD) and social mechanisms, including influences from peers and parents. We conclude that empirical work shows most consistent evidence for the link between problematic social media use and ADHD (symptoms), while intensity of social media use is also associated with several other behaviors and outcomes. Finally, we hypothesize how existing interventions for ADHD may work on the identified mechanisms and provide at-hand clinical recommendations for therapists working with adolescents with ADHD who exhibit problematic social media use.

Keywords: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); adolescents; brain development; clinical recommendations; online; parents; peers; review; social media; social problems.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.