So­cial me­dia spreads fake news about kids show’s al­leged ties to autism

Boston Herald - - BIZ SM@RT -

WASH­ING­TON — There is no Har­vard study that says a Bri­tish chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion car­toon causes autism, de­spite what a so­cial me­dia post claims. In fact, there’s at least one peer-re­viewed study that hints that a chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion show may help autis­tic kids.

The post on newsely.com and oth­ers that have cir­cu­lated in re­cent months, claims that a group of Har­vard ex­perts did a study that re­vealed Peppa Pig “is one of the main causes of autism among chil­dren. The piece de­scribes other com­plaints about the Bri­tish an­i­mated se­ries and does not name the au­thors of the so-called study or where it was pub­lished.

That’s be­cause it doesn’t ex­ist, autism ex­perts said. The study could not be found on any data­base of sci­en­tific stud­ies. Three lead­ing autism re­searchers called it false. The chair­man of the Har­vard psy­chol­ogy de­part­ment said he knows of no such study.

“This is fake,” said autism re­searcher Dr. Matthew State, chair­man of the psy­chi­a­try de­part­ment at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco and chair­man of the sci­en­tific ad­vi­sory board at the Autism Sci­ence Foun­da­tion.

State said it goes back to an old study by three econ­o­mists — none from Har­vard — that uses the Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics’ Amer­i­can Time Use Sur­vey to find a vague link be­tween autism, ca­ble tele­vi­sion watch­ing and rates of rain and snow in the 1970s and 1980s.

So what does cause autism?

Sci­en­tists are still re­search­ing that with most — but not all — of the causes found so far be­ing ge­netic. Other en­vi­ron­men­tal causes in­clude the age of the par­ents.

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