Parental Attitudes Towards Touch Screen Device Use in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Touch screen technology has increased significantly in usage amongst children and adults. Since 2012, families who own a smart phone, tablet and laptop have increased from 26% to 56% (Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, 2016). Parental and educational forums reveal children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are amongst the high percentage of touch-screen device users. Despite the growing increase in touch screen use, it is unclear whether children with an ASD are benefitting from using a touch-screen device, e.g. using a touch-screen for socialising, or whether using a touch-screen is having any negative impact on their development, e.g. social isolation.
Mixed reviews on parent forums have indicated there may be a difference in opinion between parents of children with an ASD compared to parents of children who are TD. Therefore, suggesting parents of children with an ASD may be more accustomed to different apps and find more benefits to using touch screen devices that go unnoticed in parents of TD children.
1) Are there differences in attitudes and feelings (e.g. guilt) toward touch screen device use in parents of children with an ASD, compared to parents of children who are typically developing (TD)? If so, what are the nature of these differences?
2)Do parents find touch screen devices are facilitating or interfering with their child’s development, such as their social skills?
Data were collected from a survey that was advertised through Swinburne University, located in Melbourne, Australia. Situated in the university is a child research centre called the ‘BabyLab’, and the survey was advertised on the BabyLab webpage, Facebook page and shared by parents through mother and parent- group networks. Parents of children who have an ASD and parents of children who were TD aged between 2-12 years old were invited to participate. Data was collected in Australia, Canada, the UK and the U.S. A total of 203 parents have participated to date.
Parents of children with an ASD (n=111) reported touch screen devices were helpful in facilitating social, emotional and friendship skills, compared to parents of children who were TD (n=92), and did not report such benefits. A significant effect was found in parents of children with an ASD, who reported feeling less guilt about their child’s use of a touch-screen device, when they reported the touch-screen device facilitated with their child’s social, emotional, and friendship skills p <.05.
The data from this survey indicates there are differences in attitudes from parents who have a child with an ASD compared to parents who have a child who is TD and their use of touch-screen devices. These data are important to help guide us in what areas children with an ASD are either benefitting from the use of touch-screen devices, or what could be problematic. With the increasing exposure of touch-screens it is beneficial for parents and practitioners to evaluate how children can be best supported with using such devices considering their high usage in the ASD population.