Can Too Much TV be Good?

Autistic adolescents prefer a solitary media experience

(RxWiki News) New research shows that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) spend most of their free time watching TV and playing video games. Can psychologists take advantage of this interest to help those with ASD?

Previous research has shown that too much solitary media use by typical adolescents results in bad grades, social life, attention, and overall health.

Children with ASD tend to use these solitary media more than typical children, and researchers want to find out how to make this a positive experience.

"Regulate your child’s use of TV and video games."

Micah Mazurek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri and clinical child psychologist at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, led the study that affirms that children with ASD use screen-based solitary entertainment more often than others.

Solitary screen-based entertainment consists of one way experiences, such as television and video games, where non-solitary based screen time would be emailing, social media, and interactive web experiences with other people.

She wants to know more about the effects of solitary screen-based entertainment on adolescents with ASD so that the positive effects can be maximized.

"Studies have shown that excessive use of TV and video games can have negative long-term effects for typically developing children. In future studies, we need to learn more about both positive and negative aspects of media use in children with ASD,” says Mazurek. “We need to look for ways to capitalize on strengths and interests in screen-based technology."

The study found that 64.2% of adolescents with ASD spend most of their free time watching TV and playing video games. Only 13.2% use social media like email and web chatting.

The data was complied from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a study by the U.S. Department of Education. More than one thousand adolescents in special education were evaluated. This is the first study of its kind to use a large and nationally representative sample.

The research is published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders on Dec. 8th, 2011 and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Organization for Autism Research.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2012