Previous studies suggest that psychiatric disorders are associated with problematic use of screen media. This article systematically reviews the literature on the associations between screen media and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The review uses the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.
Electronic databases were searched from inception to April 2018, using the term “ASD/autism” along with one of the following terms: “screen time”/“media”/“computer”/“phone”/“television”/“video game.”
A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies support the view that children and adolescents with ASD are exposed to more screen time than their typically developing peers or other clinical groups and that the exposure starts at a younger age. The content and context of screen use (e.g., with parents vs alone) may affect the behaviors associated with media exposure. Correlates and long-term consequences of early screen exposure (before the age of 3 years) remain largely unexamined.
The current review provides important information about how ASD is associated with screen use and exposure. Future longitudinal research should examine the impact of early screen exposure on child development while accounting for potential moderating environmental factors (e.g., socioeconomic status, parent-child relationship). This will help determine whether—and if so, how much—exposure is detrimental and allow appropriate recommendations and interventions related to screen time among children with ASD.