Adolescents with autism spend free time using solitary, screen-based media

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to be fascinated by screen-based technology. A new study by a University of Missouri researcher found that adolescents with autism spend the majority of their free time using non-social media, including television and video-games.

"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, assistant professor in the School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and . "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."

The majority of youths with ASD (64.2 percent) spend most of their free time using solitary, or non-social, screen-based media (television and video games) while only 13.2 percent spend time on socially (email, internet chatting).

This is the first study to examine the prevalence of screen-based media use within a large nationally of youths with ASD. Data were compiled from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a group of more than 1,000 adolescents enrolled in special education. The study includes youths with ASD, learning and , 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. Previously, researchers found that excessive use of these media in typically developing children is detrimental to outcomes, with regard to , , behavioral regulation, attention and health.

"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 . We need to look for ways to capitalize on strengths and interests in screen-based technology."

Mazurek is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Psychology. The study was co-authored by Paul Shattuck, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University; Mary Wagner, principal scientist at SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute; and Benjamin Cooper, a graduate student at the Brown School.

The study, "Prevalence and Correlates of Screen-Based Media Use Among Youths with ," is published in the current issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Organization for Autism Research.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

Sep 28, 2011

A primary characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairments in social-communication skills. Children and adolescents with social-communication problems face difficulty understanding, interacting and relating ...

Recommended for you

Helping autistic kids read, write and communicate

Dec 04, 2014

The boy is delighted. You can see it in his eyes—his enthusiasm for the task, his pride in his ability. Indeed, Max has good reason to be proud: At age three, he is reading. And at this precise moment, ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
not rated yet Jan 25, 2012
Has autism come to this? Where is the scientific meat? Primary and preferred activity--but since ASD youths are not so interested in social activity this is hardly surprising. The research does not show the level of watching has negative effects--that would be important given the alleged negative effects in typically developing children but ASD youths are different so the effects might not be the same.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.