Early Social Experience and Digital-Media Exposure in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder



To study the early social experience and digital media exposure in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in comparison with typically developed children.


Details of digital-media exposure and early social experience in 65 children with ASD were compared with those in a control group of equal number of typically developed children, matched for age and gender. Prenatal and perinatal factors were also studied. The diagnosis of ASD was based on the International Clinical Epidemiology Network (INCLEN) diagnostic tool and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria. Variables which were biologically relevant and has a P value of < 0.05 in the univariate analysis were analyzed by logistic regression to obtain the adjusted effect measures.


Children with ASD were exposed to digital media at an earlier age and spent significantly more time with digital media and less time with their mothers, compared to typically developed children. Exposure to digital media before 21 mo was associated with risk of ASD and the risk increased when mothers spent less than 6.5 h per day with the baby. Family history of epilepsy and developmental delay, maternal stress during the antenatal period, and absence of exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 mo were significantly more in children with ASD.


There are significant differences in the early life social experience and digital-media exposure in children with ASD compared to typically developed counterparts. Given the reported rise in prevalence of ASD, these findings stress the need for further prospective studies to explore these potentially modifiable risk factors.

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The authors acknowledge the help of Dr. Neeny PM, Medical Officer at IMHANS and Mr. Sajin AV, Speech and Language Pathologist at IMHANS in data collection.

Author information




VK collected and analyzed the data and wrote the initial draft of the paper. PK designed the study and helped in data collection and analysis. He wrote the final draft of the paper. He will act as the guarantor for the paper. SB helped in study design, data collection and in writing the paper. VKG was involved in study design and data collection. BG was the statistical expert who helped in statistical analysis.

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Correspondence to Padinharath Krishnakumar.

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Institutional Ethics Committee, Govt. Medical College, Kozhikode. GMCKKD/RP2017/1EC/210 dated 22-11-2017.

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Krishnan, V., Krishnakumar, P., Gireeshan, V.K. et al. Early Social Experience and Digital-Media Exposure in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Indian J Pediatr (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12098-021-03666-z

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Early social experience
  • Digital-media exposure
  • Exclusive breastfeeding
  • Maternal stress