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Video Games and Screen Time for Children with Autism


Video games and screen time are enjoyable activities for children of all ages, but they can also come with adverse effects. How much is too much?

Video games and screen time are enjoyable activities for all children, both neurotypical and children with ASD. The use of devices makes learning a lot more fun and enjoyable, which makes it popular for both parents and teachers alike to make use of them at home and in school. YouTube channels such as Super Simple Songs and Ms Rachel are popular amongst children and provide both entertainment and learning for them. Similarly, while video games are mostly used as a form of entertainment, there has been a rise in video games that promote learning for children as well. Letting children play video games and having screen time also give parents a much-needed break, especially for parents of children with ASD as they may need more supervision compared to neurotypical children.


On the flip side, there are adverse effects of playing too many video games and having too much screen time such as poor sleep, language delay, addiction and mood disorders. This is why many parents may get very strict with their child’s exposure to video games and screen time, especially so for parents of children with ASD, as some research has found a correlation between screen time and autistic-like symptoms. However, this does not mean that video games and screen time must be completely restricted, and the question remains – how much is too much?


Video Games and Children with Autism

A systematic review done by Craig et. al. found that children with ASD may be at greater risk of problematic video game use such as addiction and compulsive internet use. Children with ASD’s engagement in restricted and repetitive interests may lead to difficulty disengaging from video games, as evidence indicates that people with ASD spend more time playing video games than neurotypical people.


There are, however, some advantages of playing video games for children with autism. Games such as FaceSay may help children with autism recognise faces, facial expressions and emotions. Moreover, virtual reality games may be used to improve social and communication skills as they gain confidence interacting with others in the virtual world, especially with the guidance of parents and therapists. When appropriately used, video games can help children with autism improve their social skills and facilitate their learning.


Therefore, when it comes to video games, it is important to consider the quality rather than the quantity, as these games can help to improve their social skills, communication skills and their problem-solving skills.


Screen Time and Children with Autism

Just like video games, certain apps and shows can be useful for children with autism as they help to improve their problem-solving skills and communication skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children with ASD have the same amount of screen time as the typically developing child, which is not more than two hours a day.


Screen time in and of itself may not necessarily be bad for children as some educational apps and shows can benefit them. With that being said, it is crucial to balance screen time with other activities such as outdoor play, exercise and social interaction with their peers.


Therefore, as long as children with ASD are viewing appropriate and educational content, screen time may not necessarily be harmful to them. The key is for parents to strike a balance between the screen and other activities, to ensure that their child develops holistically. Parents should set clear limits on screen time and establish rules around the use of screens, such as only using screens in designated areas and at designated times.


Conclusion

As the world becomes more technology-savvy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to completely restrict children from having screen time or playing video games. What is important, however, is to teach children with autism to use them appropriately, responsibly and in moderation to prevent the adverse effects of playing too many video games or having too much screen time. As every child is different, parents should be vigilant to signs of concerning behaviours around the use of devices and set boundaries that are helpful for their child.


Written by: Hayley



References:


Craig, F. et al. (2021) A systematic review of problematic video-game use in people with autism spectrum disorders, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 82, p. 101726. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2021.101726.


Engelhardt et al. (2014) Video game access, parental rules, and problem behavior: A study of boys with autism spectrum disorder Autism


King et al. (2019) Maladaptive player-game relationships in problematic gaming and gaming disorder: A systematic review Clinical Psychology Review


Mazurek, M. O., Shattuck, P. T., Wagner, M., & Cooper, B. P. (2012). Prevalence and correlates of screen-based media use among youths with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 42(8), 1757–1767. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1413-8


Media and young minds . Pediatrics. (2016) 138:e20162591. 10.1542/peds.2016-2591


Should you limit your child's access to video games? Should You Limit Your Child's Access to Video Games? (n.d.). from https://www.myaspergerschild.com/2018/11/should-you-limit-your-childs-access-to.html


Wimsatt, Casey. (2009). FaceSay - Social Skills Games That Work.


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