Autistic children more vulnerable to video game addiction

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Children with autism are more likely than peers to become addicted to screen-based media, like video games and television, according to a new study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Micah Mazurek, a clinical psychologist at the University of Missouri, led the research, finding that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may benefit from how technology can teach social and communication skills that many autistic children lack. But, Mazurek warns, these same children are more prone to becoming addicted to screen-based media – which can cause stress levels that are psychologically damaging to them.

The study

The study included 202 children and teens with ASD and 179 typically developing peers. Parents answered questionnaires about their child's habits regarding screen-based media. The children also completed what is called the "Problem Video Game Playing Test," which is a clinical tool used to assess the signs of behavioral addiction in gaming.

Results showed that autistic children spent significantly more time than their peers playing video games, and they spent about 62 percent more time playing video games – and watching television – than all other activities combined. ASD children also showed higher levels of "problematic" use than their peers.

Both ASD and non-ASD children, however, spent more time playing video games than the recommended limit of two hours a day set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. ASD children spent about 4.5 hours a day on games, while non-ASD children spent about three hours playing video games.

Potential problems

Not surprisingly, ASD children were also more likely to show agitated behavior when they were interrupted during play, an unhealthy preoccupation with the games and a strong negative reaction when they had to stop playing the games.

Mazurek's previous research on ASD boys found that young autistic males who played role-playing video games exhibited more behavioral problems too.

"Children with ASD spent little time using social media or socially interactive video games," the study abstract states, suggesting that the time spent on media tools used to develop social skills or enable human interaction was compromised by video game use.

Given that autistic children can positively benefit from using therapy-based media interventions – as opposed to games used purely for entertainment purposes – parental monitoring of video game may be a critical part of preventing video game behavioral addiction in ASD children.

Source: The Inquisitr

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