Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

November 8, 2016

Screen Time: What is the impact on language development?

By: Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP
  • Children are able to use all different types of technology better than most adults!
  • Screen time does have an impact on language development and overall social development.
  • Parents often have concerns about if they should limit technology, and if so how to do this.

With such an increase in the amount of technology that is available to children, parents often ask the question: How much time in front of a screen is too much? As a therapist, I typically educate parents on the benefit of face to face interaction and how children can learn so much from playing with a caregiver or peer. When we talk about “screen time”, this refers to all of the time a child spend watching something on a screen in front of them. This could be either an educational video or a music video. We know that children learn to communicate at a young age through interactions with other people. From the time a baby is born they are reaching out to communicate with other people by making eye contact, crying, or even starting to make different sounds. As babies grow into toddlers, they start to seek out engagement and constant communication with people. When we talk about communication, this involves interacting with peers and caregivers using both verbal and nonverbal language. This nonverbal language is hard to find during all of those educational videos your child may watch. Yes, they may be learning the ABC’s or how to count, but they are not able to learn the back and forth parts of a conversation. Children would also be able to learn these skills by singing with you or talking about the letters you see while on your walk!

With all of the new technology, there has recently been a burst in the research behind the detrimental effects of screen time on development, specifically language development. One study found that children between the ages of 15-48 months who were exposed to a large amount of television at a young age were more likely to have a language delay. This is consistent with studies that also show children who watch more television generally score lower on communication assessments. As a speech therapist, I often talk about the impact on language development, but there is also research on other aspects of development. This includes decreased attention span, trouble with memory, as well as decreased play skills.

Now that you are aware of what the research says, it might be easier said than done to limit your child’s screen time. Now the hard part: How do I limit the amount of screen time? Check out our post here on ideas to limit screen time with your child!

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