In an era where a plethora of information, entertainment, and social interactions can be discovered at your fingertips, it’s common for teenagers to be glued to their phones, laptops, televisions, and tablets. It can be particularly appealing for teens with ASD to crave screen time because it can provide them a sense of comfort and escape that they do not receive during social interactions.
Pros and Cons to Screen Time
Research indicates that children on the spectrum spend more time on screens than neurotypical children. There are many advantages to screen use for teens with ASD; Utilizing technology can help children communicate, develop social skills, provide tools for learning, and alleviate anxiety.
However, prolonged screen time can have negative effects, particularly for individuals on the spectrum. Too much screen time can disrupt sleeping patterns, cause inflammation of the nervous system, hinder the development of skills necessary for social interaction, worsen sensory behavior, and amplify OCD. To help mitigate the effects of screen time, it’s important to set expectations and limits.
How to Set Appropriate Limits for Teen Screen Time
While the negative impacts of too much screen time affect all teens, the effects for those with ASD, attention disorders, executive functioning deficits, and learning disorders can be amplified, so it’s critical to set appropriate limits.
There are many steps you can take to ensure your child isn’t getting too much screen time. Establishing clear expectations and following through on those expectations is a good start; choose a maximum total screen time allowance per day and remove the screens prior to bedtime to help maintain normal sleeping patterns. Keeping a consistent schedule of allowed screen time can be helpful in establishing norms and providing predictability for your child so he knows what to expect. It can be helpful to use a timer to indicate the duration of screen time, so your child knows exactly how long they have to interact with their device.
Another helpful strategy is to limit screen time to instances when social interaction is not possible. If others are around to interact with your child, encourage those interactions. Save the screen time for when you are unavailable to assist with social activities, such as when you are making dinner. Screen time can also be used as an incentive for completing a less desirable activity such as cleaning dishes or interacting with peers.
After the expectations have been set and are consistently being met, a new goal might be to decrease screen time gradually. Carefully select activities you know your child enjoys where screen time isn’t available and slowly add in more of these activities into your daily routine.
New Focus Academy Can Help
New Focus Academy, a leading residential treatment center for children ages 13-17, helps teens with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental issues develop confidence, build sustainable relationships, and learn life skills to live independently. We understand that each teen comes to us with a unique story and skill set, and our passionate team works with each student to develop evidence-based programming that will work for them.
We implement research-based techniques to improve our students’ executive functioning development, cognitive training, social-emotional fluency, and other key skills necessary to better understand and react to their environment. While at New Focus Academy, your child will engage in educational, experiential, vocational, and social training to help build independence and emotional resilience. For more information, please call (435) 383-4369.