Autistic Kids Obsess Over Screen TechnologyA new study finds that autistic kids are fascinated by screen-based technology. In fact, adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appear to spend a majority of their free time using or watching screen-based media.

“Even though parents and clinicians have often observed that children with ASD tend to be preoccupied with screen-based media, ours is the first large-scale study to explore this issue,” said Micah Mazurek, Ph.D., a University of Missouri assistant professor in the School of Health Professions.

“We found that 64 percent of adolescents with ASD spent most of their free time watching TV and playing video and computer games. These rates were much higher than among those with other types of disabilities. On the other hand, adolescents with ASD were less likely to spend time using email and social media.”

Researcher discovered that an overwhelming majority of kids with ASD (64.2 percent) spend most of their free time using solitary, or non-social, screen-based media (television and video games). Only 13.2 percent spend time on socially interactive media including email and internet chat or text.

Researchers say this is the first study to examine the prevalence of screen-based media use within a large nationally representative sample of youths with autism spectrum disorders.

Investigators studied data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a group of more than 1,000 adolescents enrolled in special education. The study includes youths with autism spectrum disorders, learning and intellectual disabilities, and speech and language impairments.

The findings affirm that solitary screen-based media use represents a primary and preferred activity for a large percentage of youths with ASD, Mazurek said.

Unfortunately, the obsession with screen media has been found to slow academic performance, social engagement, behavioral regulation, attention and health in developing children.

“This is an important issue for adolescents with ASD and their families. Studies have shown that excessive use of TV and video games can have negative long-term effects for typically developing children,” Mazurek said.

“In future studies, we need to learn more about both positive and negative aspects of media use in children with ASD. We need to look for ways to capitalize on strengths and interests in screen-based technology.”

Source: University of Missouri

Child playing a video game photo by shutterstock.