Study Links Speech Delays To Kids' Screen Time Forcing All Parents To Ignore It

by Julie Scagell
Image via Shutterstock

New research shows link between screen time and speech delays for young kids

Most (all) parents have let our young children use our phone or iPad to watch a cartoon or play a game at some point (or a lot) in their lives. It can be a quick and easy distraction for parents who are trying to get a million things done at once or are just trying to have a five minute conversation with another adult without being interrupted 6,000 times. It’s hard to know how much is “too much” but a new study indicates even small amounts of screen time may be doing more damage than we think.

Research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting last week is offering some insight into the effects of screen time on very young kids. The study, led by Dr. Catherine Birken, senior investigator and a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, discovered a connection between screen time from tablets and phones and speech delays in children ages six months to two years. Parents of 900 18-month-old children agreed to share the number of minutes their kids spent in front of media devices per day. Researchers then evaluated the children’s language development, including their vocabulary and whether or not they used sounds or words to get attention.

The results found that for every 30-minute increase in daily screen time, there was a 49% increased risk in “expressive speech delay,” or using sounds and words. The study also supports the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If you really want to know what the recommendations are from the AAP keep reading below or just avert your eyes and scream “LA LA LA” at the top of your lungs because we believe approximately zero percent of parents are following these guidelines all of the time.

-For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.

-For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

We may be wrong but isn’t the point of some amount of screen time to give parents a break for a hot minute? If we are watching all of the media with our kids all of the time, when do we get time to do laundry or pack lunches or drink wine in our closet with the door locked?

Also, most of us can’t teach our kids how to rescue a kitten from a burning building, only Fireman Sam can. We are preparing our toddlers to rescue animals, dammit, if it takes them a little bit longer to say “juice” so be it.

Researchers agree more trials need to be done to understand all of the implications devices have on children under the age of two. “I think in order to actually develop the evidence to inform parents and clinicians about what to recommend, we need more definitive research,” Birken told CNN.

Until then, more Fireman Sam. The kittens of the world will thank us.