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Yale study: Social media boosts friendship quality in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

June 19, 2017

A study by Yale Department of Psychiatry and Yale Child Study Center researchers found that adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) derive high friendship quality through their use of social media.

The researchers recruited 100 study participants from programs at the Yale Child Study Center; 44 were diagnosed with ASD, and the other 56 were non-ASD. The adolescents and their parents were asked to complete questionnaires about their social media use to measure friendship quality, anxiety, and engagement on social media.

An analysis of the data showed that social media use was associated with better friendship quality in adolescents with ASD, but not in adolescents without ASD. Time spent on social media did provoke some anxiety in ASD adolescents, but not enough that they did not derive some social benefit from its use.

Adolescents with ASD therefore appear to be able to ‘socially compensate’ through online interaction, but they are compensating for a unique communicative style rather than for being socially anxious,” the authors wrote.

The results, published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, suggests that adolescents with ASD could benefit socially through more broad exposure and use of social media, the authors wrote. “Future work may seek to develop interventions which help adolescents not only spend time on these platforms, but find ways to be effectively and
actively engaged,” they wrote.

The authors of the study are Gerrit I. van Schalkwyk, Carla E. Marin, Mayra Ortiz, Max Rolison, Zheala Qayyum, James C. McPartland, Eli R. Lebowitz, Fred R. Volkmar, and Wendy K. Silverman.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on June 19, 2017