A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published gives the guidelines for children’s use of technology. The researchers involved in the survey strongly recommend that children under the age of two have limited screen time. Children who had plenty of screen time may have speech delays. While the use of such technology is common these days, the researchers found that toddlers who had screen time were not on course to use speech to express themselves and could lead to further delays in language and literacy. The study was presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
In the study, the researchers led by senior investigator Dr. Catherine Birken stated to WebMD that this was the first type of study to research the link between technology and child development. Dr. Birken is a staff pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. The researchers theorize that using smartphones or tablets can increase the “risk of expressive language delay(s),” she said. The results of the study supported policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending to limit screen time for children “younger than 18 months.”
Dr. Birken’s study had around 900 children from the Toronto area that were six months to two years in age. Science Daily reported that the children were part of the TARGet Kids! Study from 2011 to 2015. During their check-ups at 18-months, the study found that “20 percent” of children had an “average of 28 minutes a day” with handheld devices. Birken’s team found that these kids were at the risk of delaying expressive speech. Increasing the screen, increased the risk to an alarming “49 percent” delay in speech. According to CNN, the researchers used a checklist to “assess the children’s language development.” While Dr. Birken said to PBS that “it isn’t a definite diagnosis,” she warned parents that their children could be “at-risk” could need a follow-up.
The study did not find other developmental delays with the children and also did “not prove a direct cause-and-effect link” between screen time and speech delays. While this study seemed to point out the dangers of screen time and language delays, more research must be done to confirm the theory. The best way to develop language within young children is to “interact” with them. Face to face engagement including playing, using a wider vocabulary, and telling stories can help develop speech. PBS stated that those children who are behind in language could “eventually catch up, over time.”
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Netflix