Screen time in infancy associated with autistic-like traits later in adolescence

A team of researchers at Drexel University found that screen media exposure in infancy is linked to a higher risk of autism-like symptoms later on in adolescence. The team published their findings in JAMA Pediatrics.

The primary aim for researchers, the findings state, was to “determine the association of experiential factors, including social activities and screen viewing in the first 18 months of life, perinatal factors, and demographic factors, with ASD-like symptoms and risk on the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) at 2 years.”

In this study, the data of 2,152 children from the National Children’s Study was analyzed from December 2017 through December 2019.

The participants were enrolled at birth and caregivers assessed and reported screen time behavior at 12 months of age and length of preoccupation at 18 months of age. Caregiver-child play was also monitored, at 12 months of age.

“Prematurity, maternal age at birth, child sex, household income, race/ethnicity, and caregiver English-language status were included in analysis,” the co-authors noted in the findings.

The results led to the conclusion that increased screen exposure and less caregiver-child play in early childhood were correlated with autism-like symptoms later on in adolescence.

“This cohort study found greater screen exposure and less caregiver-child play early in life to be associated with later ASD-like symptoms,” the co-authors concluded.

“Further research is needed to evaluate experiential factors for potential risk or protective effects in ASD.”

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