Anecdotal reports indicate that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are often preoccupied with television, computers, and video games (screen-based media). However, few studies have examined this issue. The current study examined screen-based media use among a large, nationally representative sample of youths participating in the National Longitudinal Transition Study—2 (NLTS2). The majority of youths with ASD (64.2%) spent most of their free time using non-social media (television, video games), while only 13.2% spent time on social media (email, internet chatting). Compared with other disability groups (speech/language impairments, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities), rates of non-social media use were higher among the ASD group, and rates of social media use were lower. Demographic and symptom-specific correlates were also examined.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
Anand, S., & Krosnick, J. A. (2005). Demographic predictors of media use among infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), 539–561.
Andersen, R. E., Crespo, C. J., Bartlett, S. J., Cheskin, L. J., & Pratt, M. (1998). Relationship of physical activity and television watching with body weight and level of fatness among children: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279(12), 938–942.
Anderson, C. A., Sakamoto, A., Gentile, D. A., Ihori, N., Shibuya, A., Yukawa, S., et al. (2008). Longitudinal effects of violent video games on aggression in Japan and the United States. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1067–1072.
Bartak, L., & Rutter, M. (1976). Differences between mentally retarded and normally intelligent autistic children. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 6(2), 109–120.
Bauminger, N., & Shulman, C. (2003). The development and maintenance of friendship in high-functioning children with autism: Maternal perceptions. Autism, 7(1), 81–97.
Bertrand, J., Mars, A., Boyle, C., Bove, F., Yeargin-Allsopp, M., & Decoufle, P. (2001). Prevalence of autism in a United States population: The Brick Township, New Jersey, investigation. Pediatrics, 108(5), 1155–1161.
Bickham, D. S., Vandewater, E. A., Huston, A. C., Lee, J. H., Caplovitz, A. G., & Wright, J. C. (2003). Predictors of children’s electronic media use: An examination of three ethnic groups. Media Psychology, 5(2), 107–137.
Billstedt, E., Gillberg, C., & Gillberg, C. (2005). Autism after adolescence: Population-based 13- to 22-year follow-up study of 120 individuals with autism diagnosed in childhood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(3), 351–360.
Certain, L. K., & Kahn, R. S. (2002). Prevalence, correlates, and trajectory of television viewing among infants and toddlers. Pediatrics, 109(4), 634–642.
Cleary, P., Pierce, G., & Trauth, E. (2006). Closing the digital divide: understanding racial, ethnic, social class, gender and geographic disparities in Internet use among school age children in the United States. Universal Access in the Information Society, 4(4), 354–373.
Cummings, H. M., & Vandewater, E. A. (2007). Relation of adolescent video game play to time spent in other activities. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(7), 684–689.
Davies, D. K., Stock, S. E., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2001). Enhancing independent internet access for individuals with mental retardation through use of a specialized web browser: A pilot study. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 36(1), 107–113.
Eaves, L. C., & Ho, H. H. (2008). Young adult outcome of autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(4), 739–747.
Foley, J. T., Bryan, R. R., & McCubbin, J. A. (2008). Daily physical activity levels of elementary school-aged children with and without mental retardation. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 20(4), 365–378.
Gadow, K. D., & Sprafkin, J. (1993). Television “violence” and children with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders, 1(1), 54.
Gentile, D. A., & Walsh, D. A. (2002). A normative study of family media habits. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23(2), 157–178.
Hancox, R. J., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2005). Association of television viewing during childhood with poor educational achievement. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 159(7), 614–618.
Hoffman, D. L., & Novak, T. P. (1998). Bridging the racial divide on the internet. Science, 280(5362), 390–391.
Howlin, P., Goode, S., Hutton, J., & Rutter, M. (2004). Adult outcome for children with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(2), 212–229.
Jackson, L. A., Ervin, K. S., Gardner, P. D., & Schmitt, N. (2001). The racial digital divide: Motivational, affective, and cognitive correlates of internet use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31(10), 2019–2046.
Jackson, L. A., Zhao, Y., Qiu, W., Kolenic Iii, A., Fitzgerald, H. E., Harold, R., et al. (2008). Culture, gender and information technology use: A comparison of Chinese and US children. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2817–2829.
Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Kasen, S., & Brook, J. S. (2007). Extensive television viewing and the development of attention and learning difficulties during adolescence. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161(5), 480–486.
Klin, A., Danovitch, J. H., Merz, A. B., & Volkmar, F. R. (2007). Circumscribed interests in higher functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders: An exploratory study. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32(2), 89–100.
Kozub, F. M. (2003). Explaining physical activity in individuals with mental retardation: An exploratory study. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 28, 302–313.
Li, N., & Kirkup, G. (2007). Gender and cultural differences in Internet use: A study of China and the UK. Computers & Education, 48(2), 301–317.
Li-Tsang, C., Yeung, S., Chan, C., & Hui-Chan, C. (2005). Factors affecting people with intellectual disabilities in learning to use computer technology. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 28(2), 127–133.
Marshall, S. J., Biddle, S. J. H., Gorely, T., Cameron, N., & Murdey, I. (2004). Relationships between media use, body fatness and physical activity in children and youth: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 28(10), 1238–1246.
Marshall, S. J., Gorely, T., & Biddle, S. J. H. (2006). A descriptive epidemiology of screen-based media use in youth: A review and critique. Journal of Adolescence, 29(3), 333–349.
Nally, B., Houlton, B., & Ralph, S. (2000). Researches in brief: The management of television and video by parents of children with autism. Autism, 4(3), 331–337.
Ono, H., & Tsai, H.-J. (2008). Race, parental socioeconomic status, and computer use time outside of school among young American children, 1997 to 2003. Journal of Family Issues, 29(12), 1650–1672.
Orsmond, G. I., Krauss, M. W., & Seltzer, M. M. (2004). Peer relationships and social and recreational activities among adolescents and adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(3), 245–256.
Raghunathan, T. E., Lepkowski, J. M., Van Hoewyk, J., & Solenberger, P. W. (2001). A multivariate technique for multiply imputing missing values using a sequence of regression models. Survey Methodology, 27(1), 85–95.
Roberts, D. F., & Foehr, U. G. (2008). Trends in media use. The Future of Children, 18(1), 11–37.
Rubin, D. B. (1987). Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys. New York, NY: Wiley.
Schultz, T. M., & Berkson, G. (1995). Definition of abnormal focused affections and exploration of their relation to abnormal stereotyped behaviors. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 99(4), 376–390.
Shane, H., & Albert, P. (2008). Electronic screen media for persons with autism spectrum disorders: Results of a survey. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(8), 1499–1508.
Sharif, I., & Sargent, J. D. (2006). Association between television, movie, and video game exposure and school performance. Pediatrics, 118(4), e1061–e1070.
Sharif, I., Wills, T. A., & Sargent, J. D. (2009). Effect of visual media use on school performance: A prospective study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(1), 52–61.
Shattuck, P. T., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J. S., Orsmond, G. I., Bolt, D., Kring, S., et al. (2007). Change in autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors in adolescents and adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(9), 1735–1747.
Simonoff, E. M., Pickles, A. P., Charman, T. P., Chandler, S. P., Loucas, T. O. M. P., & Baird, G. F. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921–929.
South, M., Ozonoff, S., & McMahon, W. M. (2005). Repetitive behavior profiles in Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(2), 145–158.
Turner, M. (1999). Repetitive behaviour in autism: A review of psychological research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 40(6), 839–849.
Van Naarden Braun, K., Yeargin-Allsopp, M., & Lollar, D. (2006). Factors associated with leisure activity among young adults with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27(5), 567–583.
Vandewater, E. A., Shim, M.-s., & Caplovitz, A. G. (2004). Linking obesity and activity level with children’s television and video game use. Journal of Adolescence, 27(1), 71–85.
Wagner, M., Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., & Epstein, M. H. (2005). The special education elementary longitudinal study and the national longitudinal transition study. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 13(1), 25–41.
Wright, J. C., Huston, A. C., Vandewater, E. A., Bickham, D. S., Scantlin, R. M., Kotler, J. A., et al. (2001). American children’s use of electronic media in 1997: A national survey. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 22(1), 31–47.
Yeargin-Allsopp, M., Rice, C., Karapurkar, T., Doernberg, N., Boyle, C., & Murphy, C. (2003). Prevalence of autism in a US metropolitan area. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(1), 49–55.
This research was supported with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH086489-01, P.I.: Shattuck) and the Organization for Autism Research.
About this article
Cite this article
Mazurek, M.O., Shattuck, P.T., Wagner, M. et al. Prevalence and Correlates of Screen-Based Media Use Among Youths with Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 42, 1757–1767 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1413-8
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Video game