A recent study has shown that teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are far more likely to spend their screen time in a non-interactive way. Socially interactive media, such as email and chat clients will often be overlooked by teens with ASDs in favor of one-directional mediums like television and video games.
The researchers warned that preoccupation with video games could interfere with the children’s socialization and learning.
The study which appears online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders used data compiled for a group of over 1,000 teens enrolled in special education.
“We found a very high rate of use of solitary screen-based media such as video games and television with a markedly lower rate of use of social interactive media, including email,” Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a university news release.
The study revealed that nearly 60.3 percent of the youths with ASDs would spend “most of his/her time” watching television or videos.
“This rate appears to be high, given that among typically developing adolescents, only 28 percent have been shown to be ‘high users’ of television,” Shattuck says.
“Given that only 18 percent of youths in the general population are considered to be high users of video games, it seems reasonable to infer based on the current results, that kids with ASDs are at significantly greater risk of high use of this media than are youths without ASDs,” Shattuck says.
Previous studies have revealed that watching television or playing video games excessively is detrimental to schoolwork, social engagement, behavior and health.
There has been speculation about why video games are so much more popular with children and teens with autism. Some ideas that have been raised relevant to video game play are sensory stimulation, reward/dopamine release, executive functioning, and visual perspective taking. Children with autism might also use video games as an object of obsession.
Shattuck noted that use of social media among teens with autism spectrum disorders increased as they got older and their cognitive skills improved.
“This proclivity for screen time might be turned into something we can take advantage of to enhance social skills and learning achievement, especially [with] recent innovations in devices like iPads,” Shattuck suggested.