With the prominence and usefulness of digital media in today’s society, it is inevitable that, as a parent, you will have to make decisions on how to best integrate it in your home life, and ultimately into your children’s lives. For children with ASD, studies have demonstrated its benefits, but also raise concerns to be aware of.
When it comes to education, the use of digital media has overall proved to be highly effective in gaining and sustaining the attention of students who are on the Spectrum or have ADHD. This can help overall performance in school while simultaneously teaching technology skills. Such skills may be useful in the long run for creating employment opportunities in an increasingly digitally based economy.
Digital and social media also can help increase social and communication skills. The increased stimulation of computers or other electronic devices can help keep a child focused and allow them to be more receptive to learning social interaction and communication skills. These experiences online can help users relate better to face-to-face interactions. Video game play can be a tremendous vehicle for social interaction as well.
While the benefits of digital media are plentiful, it is crucial to be intentional and careful with how it is integrated into the home life. There is high potential for obsessive or addictive patterns to emerge given the tendency for children with ASD to engage in obsessive habits. There also is the risk of screens becoming a replacement for social interaction, rather than facilitating it, if certain precautions are not taken.
Your greatest ally here will be limit-setting. Before each new device, app, or game is introduced, be clear with how long it will be allowed to be used for. Be sure to stick to this and to not make exceptions. You can also make these rewards for good behavior and be clear that they will be taken away if expectations are not met. If limits are not set beforehand, opposition when the device is taken away becomes far more likely.
It’s also good to be very selective of what sorts of games or apps are allowed. Avoiding games such as first-person shooters or role-playing games in favor of educationally based or sports video games have shown to have a more positive effect. Studies have even shown that sports games can help spark an interest in being more active and engaging in sports in real life.
Ultimately, be sure that you use digital technology intentionally and look for ways to use it to help your child. Try to use different forms of media to expand their interests and socialize. Digital media has huge potential to help your child in different ways, however it can be detrimental overall if the use comes without proper intentionality and precautions.