Devices have become a crucial part of contemporary life. They offer incredible benefits, from helping us maintain connections to providing practical tools for day-to-day existence. If you have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), technology can provide additional advantages, helping them navigate their experience’s challenges. Nevertheless, it’s essential to recognize that focusing too heavily on devices could be detrimental. That is why parenting must learn how to balance screen time for children with autism.

Autistic children gain significantly from their face-to-face interactions, too. As a result, finding ways to balance the digital world and in-person experiences can ensure your child enjoys the most significant benefits.

Understanding Healthy Screen Time Limits

Technology can undoubtedly be a beneficial part of helping your child with autism navigate the world. However, you likely already know that — as with any tool — it’s essential to be mindful of relying on it. Part of the key to creating a more balanced approach is understanding what it is about screen time that can affect your child, so you can make more informed decisions about setting limits.

There is increasing recognition that too much screen time negatively impacts kids and their health in various ways. For instance, too much blue light exposure from TV, smartphone, video game, and computer screens in the evening can disrupt circadian rhythms. This leads to poor sleep quality, affecting their energy levels, mental wellness, and immune system. There’s also the potential to experience eye strain and other vision problems in the long term.

These types of health issues may also contribute to your child’s life experience on the spectrum. Eyesight difficulties may further disrupt their comfort with interacting with the world around them or make stimuli more overwhelming. Not to mention that poor quality sleep can make handling challenging social interactions especially difficult. Therefore, it’s essential to think about the health consequences alongside your child’s specific needs so that you can choose screen time accordingly.

Leveraging Tools for Social Skills

Technology has been instrumental in providing educational opportunities for us all. One of the ways it can assist children with autism is by enabling them to practice their social skills. Taking a balanced approach is essential, as staging their interactions in the digital world may not have positive outcomes when confronted with real-life situations later. Nevertheless, with mindful application, tech can help your child feel empowered to boost their social skills.

Perhaps the most critical technologies that help with this are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Some parents find that their children benefit from social training scenarios via VR and AR systems. These simulations guide children in recognizing social cues, facial expressions, and other non-verbal elements through immersive storytelling. They also allow children to participate in conversations and social experiences in environments they feel safe in.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to recognize that training scenarios have a limited impact. They can be great for providing your kids with data and building confidence. But you must ensure these tools support real-life experiences. After all, the world doesn’t have the social safety nets or predictability VR and AR provide. It may be helpful to work alongside your child’s therapist to establish techniques for utilizing virtual tools and how to incorporate their simulations alongside face-to-face interactions.

Discovering Meaningful Connections

Social media has become an invaluable social tool. Indeed, many platforms are home to communities of people sharing their experiences of ASD and providing support to one another. Therefore, helping your child identify and engage with social media can be a positive gateway toward forging mutually beneficial relationships. 

Naturally, it’s essential to understand how social media can impact young people’s mental health. Research has found teens may experience body image issues due to posts that show impossible beauty standards. Some teens also become addicted to social media, experiencing separation anxiety when away. Cyberbullying is also not unusual. 

It’s essential to help your child recognize when social media is hurting them. Indeed, an essential part of striking a balance is to have your child take regular breaks from social media to gain perspective on their experiences. This might include engaging in a social media detox if they find it overwhelming, addictive, or stressful.

In addition to social media, video calling platforms can be a great way to augment their in-person interactions. If your child finds face-to-face experiences exhausting or stressful, you can arrange playdates, movie nights, game sessions, or just conversations with their friends by video. 

Nevertheless, it’s positive to encourage your child also to seek out face-to-face experiences. This isn’t just from the perspective of practicing social skills. It also gives them greater self-knowledge of which aspects of relationships they enjoy and what they find challenging. This empowers them to establish strategies to manage their feelings and responses.

How to Balance Screen Time for Children with Autism: Conclusion

Striking a balance between digital tools and in-person interactions when you have a child with autism can be challenging. It’s essential to understand how screen time can have a negative impact so you can make more informed decisions about limits. It’s also wise to establish how to use tools such as VR platforms and social media to support your child’s face-to-face experiences rather than replace them.

In addition, remember that not all children on the spectrum have the same experiences. Your child will have individual needs related to technology, and it’s essential to make the time to be receptive to their thoughts, worries, and ideas. Involving them in the process can be empowering and sets them up to make balanced decisions in the future.

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