Teens with Autism Choose Television,Video Games over Social Media

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.

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  1. Posted February 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Are they blaming the Autism for the lack of social skills or the video game? I wonder if they looked at what would happen if you put two kids with Autism into the same game and didn’t tell them that the other character was a human.

    Would they change the way they interact with the other character? How about after learning that the other character was human?

    What was the name of the article, and when was it published? Thank you

    My most recent post: http://whynotfathers.com/2012/02/alls-quiet-on-the-western-front.html

  2. Annie
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    The study was Prevalence and Correlates of Screen-Based Media Use Among Youths with Autism Spectrum Disorders. By Micah O. Mazurek, Paul T. Shattuck, Mary Wagner and Benjamin P. Cooper. Published 8 December 2011.

    Thank you for your comment!

  3. S
    Posted February 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am a woman with asperger syndrome — I was diagnosed at Guy’s Hospital in London when I was very small and went to an autistic unit at primary school then a grammar school (selective exam for entry, UK system) and I run a large website with its own Wikipedia article, as linked that has regular interaction from the founder of Wikipedia and high up administrators, we are similar to Wikileaks but for Wikipedia itself, I have put the site in my email, I’m not sure if when it says it isn’t shared it means it’s not shared with anyone else or you can’t see it either and it’s just used for the system to verify it’s a valid email or something, we’ll see I guess. 🙂

    I actually think that games can help development a lot, as many games – such as City of Heroes, DC online, Age of Conan or APB – are actually very social based. There is also the chat-based games like Sanguinus or Discworld MUD (these are all googleable with the first result, I am not linking to any for fear of it getting spam filtered)

    Wikipedia is also a good starting ground to learn social interaction as it has many rules that you can enter into the search box there like WP:CIVIl, WP:AGF and so on that can help to protect users from people that otherwise might want to bait productive people – though they can also be used against some by bullies luring people into breaking the rules to get them into trouble, in the same way as in education or workplaces really.

    I think more people should support Gamers’ Voice who have spoke up a lot against stereotyping of gamers because even single player games are often increasingly more story and social based too – a good example of this would be the Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 series, Fallout 3 or Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines – games that are all fully voice-acted, with realistic facial expressions and lip synching and multiple choice conversation options (you however need a proper games graphics card from Nvidia or AMD to run them though rather than a default one that comes with a computer). Console games I would agree though are very dumbed down and harming potential education, they are to computers what comics are to books.

    At school I didn’t learn much socially because I was just getting into arguments and in trouble all the time, – I think games helped me far more with the social side of things really, it was needed as a starting point. I scraped through with qualifications but much less than if I had been able to stay on and schools had actually made meaningful punishment on scumbags who often act in groups and schools seem reluctant to stop bullying with anything more than a slap on the wrist even when its long-term, because they play the numbers game where they don’t want to suspend or expel 3 or 4 people even when they are being uttery scummy, the whole thing is just sickening really and I think more people with autism or asperger’s should get schooling in special schools where there is less likely to be bullying. But then again the bullying also made me take down some pretty bad people in the real world because of the sense of the world needing some justice when there’s not much I think it gave me. I don’t know.

    I do think real social interaction is definitely more important than any of those, but I put those games on actually a more productive level as social networking sites because you are not truly learning face interaction or body language in them, and in multiplayer games you interact with people in more interesting and varied ways – and in single player games where they aren’t real people, but a story, essentially a soap opera, that someone wrote. BUT yes, real social interaction is more important, social networks or games I would still say are only a springboard for learning social interaction without making as many mistakes (something that takes years) in a safer environment than the real world which is often dangerous for someone who might say the wrong things or not recognise dangerous social cues around men for example – recognising and becoming less gullible takes time, though I was chatting on the internet since I was around 10 and from 12 onwards I actually quite enjoyed breaking into the games like Sanguinus and creeping around in Bondage chats in the same way you’d sneak into a club with a fake ID (I didn’t actually get many paedophiles because most people believed when I said I was 18+ to avoid being banned, and actually sometimes assumed I was in 30s, which made me quite pleased naturally 🙂 I think I had a couple times on other places where I was more open, but I just ignored creeps and moved on – just like real life though I think everyone should also learn self defence too because when every second counts the police are only 5 minutes away especially in the UK where men have such a physical advantage and self protection weapons ae not allowed, not even tasers, which makes rape culture very powerful) – I think I actually came out a better and more interesting person for it and more understanding of human nature than if I had restricted or censored access to the internet.

    I’ll be surprised if this post gets through, probably too long. 🙂

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