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Screen Time and Speech Development

Technology innovation is growing at a record pace, but the way that children learn to communicate remains the same: interacting with peers and adults. Tablets, phones, and television are often used to keep children busy these days, but what impact is all of this extra screen time having on kids’ communication development? The research is clear - more screen time puts young children at higher risk for speech delays.

The research is clear - more screen time puts young children at higher risk for speech delays.

What impact can screens have on children developing speech and language?

When it comes to learning language, the first few years of a child’s life are critical. The time they spend interacting and playing with others sets the foundation for their communication skills. Recent studies have shown a direct link between a child’s exposure to screen time and the likelihood that they would have communication delays. One study found that for every 30 minutes extra of screen time given to children under two, the risk of an expressive language delay increased by 49%! Another study showed that for each hour of television a child watched, they said an average of 6 to 8 fewer words. Over time, that adds up! The more screen time the child has, the fewer words they are able to say. For older children, ages 4-11, studies have shown that passive screen time can lead to social and emotional delays.

Some parents are surprised to learn that screen time can have a negative impact on a child’s learning skills, but the truth is they would be better off playing on their own. This helps’s develop a child’s play skills, imagination, problem solving, and gives them opportunities to listen and talk to others. When it comes to screen time, here are some things to remember:

  • Having the television on in the background can be distracting. It can make it difficult for children to know when to listen to other voices in the room and can disrupt their play.

  • Television moves quickly compared to real life, which can lead to difficulty developing attention and concentration skills.

  • More screen time means less time for real life learning and interacting with others.

The Importance of Screen Time Limits

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following guidelines for screen time:

  • Under 18 Months: No Screen Time. The only exception is video chatting with family and accompanied by an adult.

  • 18-24 Months: Screen time can be introduced in limited quantities.

  • 2-5 years of age: The AAP recognizes it can be difficult to cut out screen time completely. They recommend having less than an hour of screen time during the week and less than 3 hours on weekends.

  • Ages 6+: Actively monitor your child’s screen time to make sure it is not interfering with school, homework, sleep, or other daily activities.

Screen Time Tips

It can be unrealistic to eliminate screen time for toddlers completely. Here are some tips to keep in mind for when you do engage in screen time:

  • Be present with your child and watch television with them. Talk about what is happening in the show.

  • Choose high quality, educational media.

The Bottom Line

The best way to promote communication skills is by interacting with your child! Listening to real life conversations and playing will lay the foundation your child needs to develop strong speech and language skills. Too much screen time can lead to expressive language delays. We know that eliminating screen time completely can be unrealistic, but be mindful of the amount of screen time your child receives and the quality of the content. Set a good example and avoid scrolling your phone while with your child. Be present! If you have any concerns about your child’s language skills, feel free to contact us.

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