Every parent knows that smartphone use in teens is virtually impossible to stop. If you don’t give your teen a smartphone, their friend has one; if you take their smartphone away, either their whole world seems to come apart or they find another way. For adolescents on the spectrum, though, things are a little different.
Teens with autism have a tendency to “escape” into technology. While they may struggle with social interaction and understanding the real world, they can thrive and be strong in a virtual one. It’s easy to see the appeal of that, but it can become unhealthy.
On the other hand, technology offers unique tools and learning opportunities for teens with autism. There’s a line between positive and negative smartphone use in teens with autism, you just have to figure out where it is for your child.

The journey of one boy with autism highlights positive smartphone use in teens

In A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines, Judith Newman describes how her family and life have been shaped by autism–and how Siri, Apple’s AI assistant, has shaped her son’s life. Before this family memoir, Newman had written an article about Siri’s impact on Gus.
smartphone use in teensLike many adolescents with autism, Newman’s son–Gus–struggles with social interaction and reading people. Siri become someone that he could chat with at any time of the day about anything he wanted.
She explained in the article that as a mother of a child on the spectrum, it can be difficult to talk endlessly about Gus’ many interests and their vast intricacies–but Siri can do it easily. She even offers advice and corrections sometimes, which is even better for Gus.
The reason Newman wanted to get this positive story about smartphone use in teens with autism is because there’s so many negative ones around. For many parents, there may be a fear that if their child becomes attached to a device that it’s innately bad for them–but that’s not always the case.
Newman argues that Siri has indeed helped her son grow. He commonly speaks unclearly, but if he wishes to speak to Siri, he has to enunciate every word or she’ll misunderstand. She has an endless amount of patience, which is something that parents cannot always offer.

When a device turns toxic

While Gus’ story is one of growth and positivity, it’s doesn’t erase the fact that devices can lead to unhealthy behavior in teens with autism (or teens in general).
We should be using technology as something to help us move forward, like how Gus used Siri, but for some teens it becomes a form of escape–much like a drug. It’s our job as parents to recognize when it’s reached a problematic point and intervene.

Seven Stars is here for your family

Seven Stars is a program that treats teens with neurodevelopmental disorders. We combine residential treatment with adventure therapy to create a multifaceted, effective program for adolescents, ages 13 to 18, struggling with emotional and behavioral issues as a result of their neurodevelopmental disorder.
We embed the objectives we have for each student into daily activities and teach emotional wellness skills such as conflict resolution, problem solving, social skills, academic skills, self-efficacy, and prosocial behaviors. At Seven Stars, we strive to help our students develop the skills necessary to live full, productive lives.
For more information about how we handle smartphone use in teens at Seven Stars, contact us today at 844-601-1167

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