Research: Children with ASD More Susceptible to Video Game Addiction

Children and teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use screen-based media, such as television and video games, more often than their typically developing peers and are more likely to develop problematic video game habits, according to research conducted by Micah Mazurek, an assistant professor of health psychology and a clinical child psychologist at the University of Missouri.

"Many parents and clinicians have noticed that children with ASD are fascinated with technology, and the results of our recent studies certainly support this idea," said Mazurek. "We found that children with ASD spent much more time playing video games than typically developing children, and they are much more likely to develop problematic or addictive patterns of video game play."

Using 202 children and adolescents with ASD and 179 typically developing siblings, Mazurek studied screen-based media usage. Comparing the two groups, Mazurek found that the group with ASD spent more time playing video games and less time on social media, compared to typically developing children. Children with ASD also spent more time watching television and playing video games than the control group. Mazurek also concluded that typically developing children spent more time on non-screen activities than on TV or video games.

In another study of 169 boys with ASD, Mazurek found that problematic video game usage was associated with "oppositional behaviors," such as refusing to follow directions or arguing with authority figures. Mazurek emphasizes that more carefully controlled research is needed to examine these issues in the future.

"Because these studies were cross-sectional, it is not clear if there is a causal relationship between video game use and problem behaviors," Mazurek said. "Children with ASD may be attracted to video games because they can be rewarding, visually engaging and do not require face-to-face communication or social interaction. Parents need to be aware that, although video games are especially reinforcing for children with ASD, children with ASD may have problems disengaging from these games."

While Mazurek points out that too much screen time for children with ASD can be bad, using what children find fascinating about video games can help mental health professionals and researchers develop effective therapies using the technology.

"Using screen-based technologies, communication and social skills could be taught and reinforced right away," Mazurek said. "However, more research is needed to determine whether the skills children with ASD might learn in virtual reality environments would translate into actual social interactions."

The study, "Television, Video Game and Social Media Use among Children with ASD and Typically Developing Siblings," will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Mazurek's other study, "Video Game Use and Problem Behaviors in Boys with Autism Spectrum Disorders" was published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mazurek has also written for The Scientist Magazine about the positive and negative effects of using screen-based technologies in interventions for children with autism.

Thanks to Jesslyn Chew – the author of the article – for passing it along to us.

"Happy children – girl and boy playing a video game ," image © Denis Nata |

Source: University of Missouri News Bureau

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  1. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Ditto here on all that including the higher functioning form.

    And i found that thats pretty much the gist of it. I stayed in a lot of MMO's when i was a kid because i could easily relate and converse with those in the game. While in person most people would only find me "awkward" or "strange" and not even give me a chance before jumping on the "pick on that guy" bandwagon.

    Eventually i personally made the choice to go military and kick myself in the ass in order to learn better social interactive skills by being out in the world and cutoff, but not everyone gets that lucky they can successfully pass the usual barrage of tests, let alone want to. (namely if they find out you have it, your banned)

  2. 0
    Slipperman says:

    Having been formally diagnosed with a form of high-functioning autism myself, I think there are other factors as to why those of us on the autistic spectrum are so drawn to video games. Kids on the spectrum happen to be so socially awkward, and get bullied or shunned by the ignorant members of neurotypical society, that they end up withdrawing from having a normal social life and turning to video games to fill in the void. (Also while they might still be able to have some grasp of a social life, most of that would likely be limited to online social media.) At least this is what I see from this…

  3. 0
    Technogeek says:

    I'm curious to what degree this study controlled for the tendency towards fixation behavior that is normally present in people with some form of autism.

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