Excessive screen time can significantly impact the development of a child with ASD, hindering their progress in reaching developmental milestones. Children with ASD are susceptible to sensory issues, and prolonged screen exposure can exacerbate these challenges. Visual sensitivity may increase due to the intense stimuli, affecting their sensory integration and processing abilities.
Additionally, excessive screen time can lead to decreased social interactions, hindering their social and communication skills. Children with ASD may struggle with language development, and screen time may limit opportunities for meaningful interactions, impeding their progress in speech and language milestones.
Recommended screen time allowance:
Children less than 18 months: Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting
Children 18-24 months: If choosing to introduce screen media to children, do so with supervision and talk about what your child is seeing – this will help them learn about the world around them!
Children 2-5 years: 1 hour a day of high-quality programming, continuing to watch with child in order to help them understand what they are watching and applying it to the world around them!
Children 6+ years: Set time limits (stay consistent!) Observe your child to be sure the use of screen time is not negatively impacting academic performance, sleep, physical activity, or other behaviors important for overall health.
Information adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics
Screen time negatively affects the development of:
- Physical health (such as eyesight, healthy weight and activity level)
- Fine motor development
- Gross motor development
- Social development
- Child’s approach to learning
- Emotional development
- Language development
- Cognition and general knowledge
When a child is engaged in a screen, they are missing opportunities to learn about the world around them as well as practicing important communication and developmental skills (both social and physical).
Suggestions to decrease excessive screen time (adapted from yourtherapysource.com)
- Provide children with opportunity for play every day (active, imaginative, open-ended)
- Avoid using screens yourself when playing with your children
- Work with child to identify a physical activity to engage in at least once a day (walking the dog, playing ball, obstacle course with couch cushions)
- Have screen-free time every day (dinner, play time)
- Designate “screen-free zones” such as bedrooms or the kitchen table
- Finger painting
- Board games
- Put on a play, play dress-up
- Baking or cooking together
- Treasure hunt in bin of rice
- Listen to music, dance
- Build with blocks
Prolonged screen engagement may lead to reduced physical activity and limited opportunities for motor skill development. Play-based activities are crucial for promoting gross and fine motor skills, and excessive screen time can hinder the attainment of these milestones.
Screen time can disrupt sleep patterns, negatively affecting the child’s overall well-being and cognitive development. Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive growth and emotional regulation, and disturbances in sleep patterns can hinder their developmental progress.
If you are unsure about screen time, its impact on your child and/or your family, reach out to your current Westside Children’s Therapy therapist for further tools and strategies.