Even as teens with autism use television, computers and other screen-based media more than their peers, new research suggests that they’re shunning some of the Web’s most popular offerings.
In the largest study ever to look at the use of screen-based media in those with autism as compared to other disabilities, researchers at the University of Missouri and Washington University analyzed data on more than 1,000 special education students ages 13 to 16 collected through the federal government’s National Longitudinal Transition Study-2.
“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,” said Micah Mazurek of the University of Missouri who led the study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
What’s more, when using electronics, teens with autism were nearly five times more likely to engage in solitary activities than to utilize email, chatting or other social offerings like Facebook.
In contrast, those with intellectual disabilities were more likely to use social media.
The tendency of those with autism to spend so much time in front of screens could be problematic, the researchers said, because it means that teens with autism are not socializing or developing other skills.
“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, adding that more research is needed. “We need to look for ways to capitalize on strengths and interests in screen-based technology.”