What is Virtual Autism and How To Treat it?

By Aima Abid   Posted on December-01-2022 

What is Virtual Autism and How To Treat it?

Pediatricians worry that babies and toddlers who spend hours a day surrounded by phones, tablets and TVs may develop autistic-like symptoms, known as virtual autism.

Symptoms of virtual autism often disappear when children reduce screen time and begin engaging in face-to-face contact, reading, and playing with caregivers, other children, and non-electronic toys.

Over the past five years, doctors have noticed unusual changes in the behavior of more and more young children. Some stopped responding to their own names, avoided eye contact, and became detached from the world around them—Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Others were developmentally behind for their age.

Virtual autism is actually a condition that is believed to occur when a young child (under the age of three) is exposed to excessive screen time. This happens when looking at a screen for too long can lead to autistic-like symptoms.

According to a study that aims to show the effects of electronic screens on language development and autistic-like behavior.
Children today have more access to electronic media on a daily basis than previous generations. Research shows that increased screen time is associated with a decrease in melanopsin-expressing neurons and the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter, and results in abnormal behavior, less cognitive, and speech in children. develops."

The results showed that children who spent less than 3 hours of screen time per day had lower language delays and shorter attention spans, while children who spent more than 3 hours of screen time per day had There was language delay, short attention span and hyperactivity.

While, we found that more than half of the children (66.6%) had no parent-child contact during screen time, all cases reported delayed speech and poor attention, and 66.6% of the children had extremely Activity found.

This is an important discovery. It shows the importance of a child's connection and connection with the people around him and the world. Social interaction, such as eye contact and communication skills, are the most commonly observed behaviors when trying to diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

Experts warn parents about the risk factors of too much screen time for young children, four or more hours a day.

Heavy screen exposure at a young age can cause problems in young children's brains.

Most of the time, the child receives only specific sensations (visual and/or auditory) from the imaginary environment, and he cannot associate these visual and auditory sensations with other kinds of sensations: feeling, touching, smelling, tasting, Unable to develop according to . In such a child, if they do not intervene early (before 2-3 years), these problems will become more and more severe.

This can lead to speech delay. Cognitive abilities can also be affected, possibly leading to mental disorders. These problems can affect a child's ability to interact in social relationships in the same way that neurotypical children can.

Research shows that increased screen time in young children is associated with negative health outcomes such as decreased cognitive ability, language impairment, mood, and autistic-like behavior including hyperactivity, short attention span, and irritability.

If your child has autism-like symptoms, and has too much screen time, it may be virtual autism.

After asking parents in detail about their children's media use and screen time at home, the doctors discovered that almost all children spent more time in and around screens — in some cases, as much as ten hours a day. But when doctors had families eliminate or greatly reduce children's screen exposure, ASD symptoms almost always disappeared.

Romanian psychologist Marius Zamfir, who was one of the first to identify virtual autism, coined the term. He is concerned about the lack of advancement in life among children who watch excessive screen content. "Children's minds are used to finding pleasure without effort,"

Meanwhile, a 2022 study of more than 84,000 Japanese children and their mothers found that "among boys, more screen time at age 1 was significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder at age 3." was associated."

With the rapid increase in device use," the authors concluded, "Evaluating the health effects of screen time on children and controlling excessive screen time is important.

Studies of young children's brains seem to reveal behavioral clues.

Experts say that young children are easily distracted due to excessive use of touch-screen devices, which affects their ability to focus on something.

According to a study published in the British newspaper Daily Mail, children who spend a lot of time on touch screen devices for gaming or other reasons easily suffer from mental distraction and inattention.

Dr. David Anderson, director of the Child Mind Institute, says that in light of this study, young children need to be careful about screen time because their minds are being formed during this time.

According to the experts involved in the study, children at this stage need maximum human interaction so that they can cross the natural milestones of their linguistic and social skills.

According to Dr. Anderson, one of the study members, during this phase, children are mentally preparing to understand people's feelings, know their emotions and cope with life's downsides.

A study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Medical Center in the United States found evidence that children who spend more screen time may have changes in their mental structure. Researchers at the hospital conducted MRI scans of 47 preschool children.

All these children spent more than an hour in front of the screen, the scans noted differences in the parts of the brain related to language and literacy (Language & Literacy Development).

Although the research did not note significant differences in mental performance, the study cautioned against excessive screen time in children's developmental phase, citing some evidence.
So, what are parents to do? For one thing, respecting a child's basic developmental needs. For children to learn to speak, reason, and develop important social skills, they need to interact face-to-face with people they love and use all their senses as often as possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that babies and toddlers should not use screens alone. Screen contact should be limited to video calls with loved ones, with a caregiver standing by.

"Preschoolers should have no more than one hour of screen time a day" so that children have enough time to engage in activities important to their health and development,
The World Health Organization agrees that, for their health and proper brain development, children under the age of one should not be exposed to screens.

When toddlers range around themselves, freely using all their senses to explore, taste and play with their choices, they are making rich and lifelong neural connections."

Talk to your child every day and read as much as possible
Provide materials, toys, and games that require manipulation, such as play dough, finger paint, and a play kitchen. Go outside at least once a day and make sure the child has time alone and with other children. Have time to play with.

  • Don't use screens when you're with kids.

  • Don't give the phone to your baby or toddler (and keep the screen locked, just in case).

  • Keep the TV off around children under four, even if the child is not paying attention to what is on the screen.

  • Explain to family members and caregivers why these steps are important for a child's healthy growth, stability, and well-being.

  • A child should not be screened before two years of age. Children between two and five years of age should be given less than one hour in a whole day. No screens of any kind for at least an hour before bed. Eye contact, lovingly touching the baby, reading books should be common in the home and screen time should not be used during meals.

  • The screen should be watched sitting with children. This keeps parents involved in children's lives, as well as makes it easier to keep track of age-appropriate academic content choices for children.

  • To keep a check on children's screen use, parents themselves have to keep a close eye on how much screen time they spend on screen and what kind of content they watch. If parents watch documentaries or informational programs or commercial material, children will also find it easy.

  • The best practical example should be presented in front of the children in which they learn from the actions of the parents that reading a book, going for a walk outside, living an active lifestyle, screen with the family. Free time is very important.

  • Parents need to limit their screen time, prioritize educational content over commercial content, and provide alternative good activities away from screens.

There is beauty in life in moderation. This moderation has to be taken care of in the use of the screen as well. By the age of three, eighty percent of the brain has developed and caution is even more important during these years. The child should be kept away from the screen for the first two years, at the age of two to three years, do not give it at first, if you give it, then very little.

Three to seven years: half an hour to an hour

Seven to twelve years: one hour


Parents of young children should show them something comfortable. Cartoons or games with very fast scene changes should be completely avoided. Use of mobile devices and tablets should be monitored and time monitored.

In today's age, it is impossible to stay away from digital media and keep children away, but if some rules are made from the beginning for yourself and children, which the family always follows, then the harms can be minimized and the benefits can be maximized.

With regard to screen time, there is a need to set a specific time limit for when children can use TV or devices, as using devices late at night can affect sleep.

It is also important for parents to realize the importance of spending time with their children and family and to have constant communication with them. Regular inclusion can substitute for children's screen time."

We asked Tahir Fatima, a child psychologist, some questions about this

What is Virtual Autism?

Why does it happen?

What are its symptoms and causes?

Is it curable and can it go away?

Are there any statistics or how many cases have been reported in Pakistan?

How many such children have you treated so far?


A message for parents' guidance

What is Virtual Autism? When this child does not have autism spectrum disorder, but symptoms like autism spectrum disorder begin to appear, social communication and behavior changes take place.

And the reasons for this are that if you let a child under the age of three look at the screen for more than three hours, they get symptoms like this.

In this we see behavior, we see hyperactivity

We see fixations, we see a lot of aggression, we see communication delays in children, or such children communicate in different ways and sometimes not at all, and what is more, they do not have social interaction and this is also seen. 

That the parents who hold the phone to the children and do not communicate with them themselves, hyperactivity in these children increases a lot.

Such children communicate in different ways. Stimming is the body. These children memorize any sentence from anywhere, from a cartoon or a movie. They repeat some sentences whether it is in our own language or another I am in language they also keep repeating. 

Yes, it is absolutely treatable, but such children require a lot of effort, especially the parents and the mother, and then the biggest challenge wherever the therapy is being taken is that the child How to keep away from the screen When you start to avoid the screen then we try to give the child rhymes poems something that has to do with the screen we move it away from the child we don't read it at all not at all Show and some children for six months.

Children are kept away from anything related to screens for a year so that everything goes out of their minds.

The up-down of neurotransmitters in the brain should stop
Its population in Pakistan cannot be estimated because there is no complete research on it yet, but it is very large in number.

Till now there is not enough awareness among the parents that they should come and tell that our child has virtual autism.
And the children who come to us are cured

But people who don't come with this thing are carrying children with similar symptoms. About thirty to forty percent of the children who come to us have virtual autism.

Because children were given too much screen time during the code

Phones to children very young children and even before that since our parents use phones more and more especially on Android phones it is very common for children to get hold of it and parents themselves say that we give the phone to the child ourselves.

 If the child has not eaten, we put the phone in front of him, then he eats, or if the child is not doing this, we hold the phone to him, then he stops screaming and he sits calmly and If we see this around us, it is very common that let the children hold the phone and they will sit comfortably.

Yes, and many of these children have been treated and are being treated and they go into the mainstream. Mobile phones and tablets are also removed from the TV screen so that their aggression and other symptoms disappear completely. 

This is a message for parents with Autism Spectrum Disorder to be very concerned about the mental health of their children. Take care, pay attention to your children

And I will say that it is the fault of the parents that their children suffer from this disease virtual autism because of them, but the parents themselves are causing their children to suffer from this disease by their own will. May Allah bless them with healthy and normal children. But he made his children suffer from this disease with his own hands

From today, you can see that if we talk about ten years ago or twenty years ago, children were not given so much use of phones, so there is a huge difference between the development of these children and the abilities of children now. 

Children are hyper If you go to the play area in a mall, you will see children not tolerating anything and getting hyper about the smallest thing. Listen carefully and understand that this phone or the screen is not playing any role in your child's education and training. Wherever the school is, where he is going to study, he will not use the screen even for learning, but continue the education and training process of his children in traditional ways. 

Reduce if possible And instead of giving screen to children, give your time, show your love, your love, your compassion, your compassion, your child will automatically stop using the screen.

The babies and toddlers who spend hours a day surrounded by phones, tablets and TVs may develop autistic-like symptoms, known as virtual autism.

By Aima Abid    01-Dec-2022 Views  86

You may also read following recent articles