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Autism Linked to Video Game Addiction

Kids with autism are playing video games far more than their peers, a study finds.

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Are autistic kids at a higher risk?
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By Valerie Tejeda

04/22/13

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Children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to develop "problematic media habits" such as video game addiction, according to a new study. Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder which manifests in children before three years old, and is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. "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," says study lead Micah Mazurek, a clinical child psychologist at the University of Missouri. "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." In the study, researchers focused on use of screen-based media by 202 American children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 179 neurotypical peers between the ages of 8 and 18. They found that subjects with ASD spent less time on social media, but had higher levels of video games use—averaging 4.5 hours per day, compared to 3 hours among their peers. Both groups exceeded the recommended use of less than 2 hours a day, by The American Academy of Pediatrics. “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," says Mazurek. Excessive video game use by children with ASD may lead to difficultly developing social skills, as well as health issues related to a more sedentary lifestyle.

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