Autism, screen time

The Startling Truth About Screen Time and Autism

Unsurprisingly, parents struggle to make peace with how much time their child spends watching a screen. Perplexed with medical warnings, numerous studies highlighting screen time’s detrimental impact on your child, and quintessential jargon such as ‘digital babysitting,’ parents like you can feel overwhelmingly pressured about allowing your child even to see a screen. Watching could become a far cry! Yet, it’s critical to observe the conformity behind ‘mindful screen time’ and seek the benefits it may hold for your child’s cognitive development.

Before educating yourself with healthy screen viewing guidelines, you are advised to get a handle on the pros and cons of screen viewing, especially for your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This approach allows you to make informed decisions that can not just complement your child’s developmental progression but also bring a sense of settlement to your family.

The Thin Line That Separates Good From Bad

Education about healthy digital hours for your child’s learning curve enables you to decipher the equation between the risk and reward screen viewing can offer.  Sure, children that spend too much time on their phones and tablets will likely have a shorter attention span, frequent sleep interruptions, and delayed development of linguistic abilities. 

Excessive screen time could also cause obesity and degraded sociability in your child. In children with autism, this downward spiral is much faster and goes unhinged if not taken care of on time.

On the contrary, a study on 388 children with ASD in the UK, Spain, and Belgium revealed a strong link between improved linguistic abilities and digital learning interfaces. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed designated digital-media guidelines, also termed ‘mindful screen time,’ to reduce the negative impact digital exposure can have on children while considering the experiential learning curve it offers.

  • Birth to 18 months
    AAP advises zero digital media consumption for infants and toddlers.

  • 18 to 24 months
    AAP advises the use of only high-quality programming where a parent sits with the child. Giving children full control of the screen is prohibited.
  • 2 to 5 years
    AAP advises parents to co-view the content with their child to discuss what the child is watching. Advised time limit screen is at most 1 hour.
  • 5 to 18 years
    This phase is crucial for your child’s emotional development. The child understands the natural family bond and creates a personality alignment with how the family functions. Although children can watch content independently, parents must zero screen time during family meal hours and social events as an atomic habit. Prohibiting night viewing at least 1 hour before bedtime is essential to ensure your child’s good night’s sleep.

Research has repeatedly proven that mindful screen time increases motivation and engagement in children with autism, supported by a visible improvement in their creative and problem-solving skills.

To minimize the risks posed by digital media, you can opt for a rather interactive device and digital schedule providing educational content appropriate for the psychological age of your child. You can choose any type of video content, such as educational games, virtual group activities, and virtual tours, that help your child prepare for new or unknown events or interactions.

A research paper published in 1999 by Patti M. Valkenburg, Marina Krcmar, Allerd Peeters, and Nies M. Marseille developed constructive mediation strategies with three distinct video viewing styles, as jotted below.

  • Restrictive Mediation
    In this viewing style, you will set boundaries for the content your child watches and its frequency.

  • Social Co-Viewing
    This viewing style is very conservative, where you discuss the content displayed on the screen with your child. This style stresses the importance of children differentiating between the real world and the world on screen.
  • Interactive Mediation
    This viewing style is the most effective, as it builds a friendly bond between the parent and child, where both can discuss and vocalize their views about the video content.

A research study on children from low and middle-income families by William R. Penuel, Margaret Mary Riel, Ann E. Krause, and Kenneth A. Frank revealed that social co-viewing and active mediation by preschool teachers accelerated children’s literacy levels.

Children with autism require hand-holding to comprehend the transfer of information in audio and video formats. This need speaks volumes about how parental supervision can transform digital content consumption from a leisure activity to a profound educational exercise promoting an exceptional learning opportunity for your child.

Pew Research surveyed parents to understand their views of their children watching online video content. Surprisingly, 88% felt positive about their child learning new things on YouTube, and 75% felt that the platform exposes their children to diverse cultures. To strengthen this observation, researchers found that devices with interactive touch-based video frames can upskill children faster when compared to static non-digital images for the same content.

Studies such as these compel parents and therapists to reconsider screen time restrictions for a better learning experience for children with ASD. Technology will become an inevitable part of your child’s academic curriculum. You as a parent must establish viewing discipline and avoid using the screen as your child’s pacifier for example when the child throws a tantrm. CognitiveBotics is a platform designed to address your challenges as a parent with empathy and dedication.

We complement your unique parental journey with our AI-powered eLearning platfrom that offers structured, distraction-free learning for your child while enhancing focus and instilling confidence. To discover what our platform can offer to your child’s growth and how it can be your companion in the journey forward, book a demo today!