On April 27, The New York Times and Sensor Tower reported Apple’s removal and/or restriction of 11 out of the 17 most downloaded screen time and parental control apps from its app stores. There was an immediate outcry from parents who consider these apps vital for monitoring and controlling children’s usage. Families with autistic children were hit particularly hard by Apple’s decision.
How The Move Impacts Kids With Autism
Paige Mayer, spokesperson for OurPact, one of the most downloaded parental control apps, spoke with Parentology about the specific effects of screen time on the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) community, “For some parents, managing screen time may be as simple as a verbal request to turn devices off, or physically taking them away,” she says. “For others, Apple’s Screen Time will suffice. For parents of autistic children, the solution is rarely so simple.”
According to Psychology Today, an autistic child’s brain is literally wired differently than kids without ASD, making them more prone to arousal regulation issues. As screen time releases dopamine in the brain, it’s often viewed as a stimulant. Kids with ASD are more likely to become over-stimulated, irritable and emotional based on their screen time. Their brains are less likely to recover from over-usage, too, leaving them susceptible to technology addiction.
For parents of autistic children, the ability to control and limit their child’s use of technology is not only something they’d like to have, it’s something they need. Kids with ASD are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of too much screen time. Additionally, there are many educational and therapeutic apps developed for children with ASD.
Control Is Key
Parental control apps allow ASD families to regulate the amount of time a child spends on a specific app. They can also “hide” gaming apps during school hours and disable devices once a child has reached their screen time limit for the day.
Kids with ASD respond well to routines, and these apps provide a consistent, automated schedule to their daily and weekly activities.
Mayer shares parents’ concern about the limited access to these apps, “For children with autism, technically enforced boundaries are essential, and often those boundaries need to be tailored through a variety of specialized solutions,” she says. “At the end of the day, this discussion is about the continued growth of a diverse screen time solutions market. It’s about a parent’s right to choose the how of screen time management.”