Screen Time WARNING!

As Speech Therapist we frequently get asked about screen time. we often get aske for apps that will help with a child speech and language development. while there are many fantastic and evidence-based resources available, you can read on to find out about our general opinion about screen time. 

What is screen time?

Screen time is any time that your child spends in front of a screen. That could be a TV screen, a tablet, a computer, or even your smart phone. It doesn’t matter if your child is watching an educational video or playing a game, screen time is screen time.

Why Should We Worry About Screen Time?

Communication is about interacting with your child and your child interacting with you. Every minute that your child spends in front of a screen is one fewer minute that he could spend learning from your interactions with him or practicing his interactions with you. Screen time takes away from time that could (and should) be spent on person-to-person interactions. Think about a car ride. If your child has a device in front of him, he quietly sits and watches his favorite show. You probably don’t interrupt often to talk to him. On the flip side, if he didn't have a device, you would most likely be talking to him more, even if he’s not responding. And if he’s bored, he might start saying something to you as well. Let’s face it, we like to fill silence so if there’s no screen making noise, we’re more likely to talk. (This goes for the radio, too! Turn off the noise and talk to your child!)

Does too much screen time affect speech & Language development?

Some children do completely fine with tons of screen time. Some children learn to count, name things, or even read from screens! However, your child is having trouble with communication so he needs every opportunity possible to hear words spoken to him (by a real person, not a screen) and to practice using sounds and words himself. I’m not saying that screen time caused your child’s language delay. I’m saying that it could be making it worse. Is it really worth risking it?

A study from the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada followed almost 900 young children between six months and two years of age [1]. They found that the toddlers who were exposed to more handheld screen time were more likely to have delayed expressive language skills (i.e., the child’s ability to say words and sentences was delayed). They also found that for every 30-minute increase in daily handheld screen time, there was a 49% increased risk of expressive language delay!

Another study surveyed over 1,000 parents of children under the age of two [2]. They found that toddlers who watched more videos said fewer words. For each additional hour of videos that eight- to 16-month-old infants watched in a day, they said an average of six to eight fewer words!

These new studies show that increased screen time places infants at risk for expressive language delays and can result in young children saying fewer words.

What is our advice? 

My professional advice is that in the early formative years you limit screen time as much as possible. We know that children don’t learn best from screens and too much screen time can negatively impact development, but what does this realistically mean for your child’s screen time? Screen time for infants is not recommended. This recommendation makes sense considering the studies mentioned earlier that showed that infants with more screen time had delayed expressive language skills.

Most parents of preschoolers report that having their child watch a video or play a video game allows them to get something done or have a well-deserved break. While it’s clear that screen time will not promote your child’s development, if you allow it occasionally, it can help you get through a busy day. Whenever possible, when your child watches a show on your phone or tablet, talk about it or even re-enact it together!


AUTHOR - Anna Keno, Speech Language Therapist (BSLT, MNZSTA) GIANT LEAPS Speech Company


References

[1] American Academy of Pediatrics (2017). Handheld Screen Time Linked with Speech Delays in Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Handheld-Screen-Time-Linked-with-Speech-Delays-in-Young-Children.aspx

[2] Zimmerman, F. J., Christakis, D. A. & Meltzoff, A. N. (2007). Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years. The Journal of Pediatrics, 151, 364-368.

Posted: Sunday 5 September 2021