Healthy Play Diets: The Best Way to Set Limits on Screen Time
According to a study by the National Institute of Health, more than half of US children exceed the AAP screen time recommendation. Children with ASD spend an average of 3.46 hours per day using electronic devices and while this is not more time than other children in their age groups, children with ASD face unique obstacles if they become too reliant on screen time.
Even though computers, phones, and to a lesser extent television can allow children to direct their own learning, those with ASD might not always direct it in the optimal direction. Their love for seeing and learning about very specific things may keep them from branching out. Repetitive playing of the same game may provide a child and their parents with peace and quiet, but it can really limit their learning opportunities.
The truth is, technology usage is not inherently bad, but the danger lies in that it can take away time from activities that help children develop more well-rounded and generalized skills. Children with ASD can be more prone to using technology as a comforting tool and can then pass up opportunities to relate to others, which would help them become more accustomed to social cues and behaviors. Because of this, it is important to set healthy limits on screen time.
Here are some tips on how to do it:
A simple starting point that is often overlooked is putting technology out of reach. Removing TVs and computers from areas that can be easy to get to can really curb your child’s usage of these devices.
Using apps or timers can help you track the amount of time that children spend on electronic devices and can shut them down when the time limit is exceeded. Alternatively, you can use battery life to set limits as children may not feel like the devices are being taken away. This may be especially useful for parents who are met with resistance.
Using routine to set limits is a healthy way to not only cut down on screen time, but to also teach children responsible time management skills. By making technology available at only set times, you can help your child get used to setting their own limits.
Introduce other activities and play with your child. By sharing interests, you can encourage your child to spend time doing different things, and at the very least, it can help you monitor screen time up close.
Set a good example with your own use of smartphones and other technology. Children are constantly observing and trying to make sense of the world around them. Those with ASD are not an exception!
Hopefully, by implementing these tips and setting limits on screen time, you can keep your child from relying so much in technology that it deteriorates their social skills. A little access can provide learning opportunities and entertainment but knowing where to draw the line and how to do it is very important.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavior therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.