Researchers are beginning to discover that the more time toddlers spend in screen time may actually delay their speech acquisition.

Well-meaning parents and grandparents, ready with the latest technological teaching tool, may be surprised to know that researchers are beginning to discover that the more time toddlers spend in screen time may actually delay their speech acquisition (Birken, 2017).

 

A study presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting found that 20% of 18-month-old children spent an average of 28 minutes each day using screens. Additionally, every 30-minute session of screen time was linked to a 49% increase of expressive speech delay.

 

As reported by ABC News, Dr. Catherine Birken, the study’s senior investigator explains, "I believe it's the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it's really a first look."

 

Although more studies will be helpful in truly understanding the impact of screen time and speech delay, parents can begin to take this recent research as a cautionary recommendation. 

 

And keep in mind the screen time recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who note that children under the age of 18 months are not recommended for screen time use, other than video chatting with family


Healthy Ways to Stimulate Your Child’s Verbal Growth

 Parents of babies and toddlers are often comparing their little ones to other children in their playgroups, published benchmarks, or others’ remarkable accomplishments posted on Facebook!

 

  • “When did your son first walk?”
  • “How much did your daughter weigh when she was born?”
  • “Is your child talking yet?”

 

These common conversations often come from anxious parents, fearful families or from some who just need to compete and measure up. The need to get ahead starts early and some parents feel that armoring their baby with the latest smart phone or tablet will help them talk earlier---and maybe in several languages!

Here are some helpful and healthy ideas to stimulate emotional and verbal growth in your toddler:

 

1. Talk with your Child

Talking to your child does more than just model conversation and language; talking eye to eye with your little one cultivates a relationship. Babies respond to the inflections in their parents’ voices and expressions in their faces. Words and gestures are celebrated in the moment—much more celebration and growth than can be offered in screen time.


2. Read with your Child

Reading together is one of the cherished rituals in many homes. Story time, bed time, “stuck in traffic” time—books inspire imagination and vocabulary.  

Favorite books are read again, and again, and again (and a parent will not dare to skip a page in a child’s favorite book, proving that reading contributes to memory and memories.)

 Snuggling together with a well-loved book, talking about favorite characters and imagining what will happen next really cannot happen between a child and their screen. 


3. Share the Screen with your Child

Children’s programming and games can be creative, fun and educational. Rather than depending upon these programs to babysit your child during your busy day, spend time reading and playing games together. Then turn it off. Limiting screen time helps develop a habit for later years.

 

4. Sing with your Child

I was forever making up songs with my son from babyhood through his toddler years. I’d argue that my songs taught him how to spell his name and helped him learn his address and phone number far better than any television program or video game.

I cherish those little years as now, well into his teen years, I don’t quite the applause for my singing as I did then! But, I still sing!


Experts will make a case against screen time and some will convince parents why screen time is helpful. Nothing replaces the time a parent spends with their toddler. Talking, reading, singing and sharing time together cultivates more than just speech milestones; it cultivates a trusting and caring relationship that will outlast the latest technology.


                                            For more information about screen time,
                                              search through our Parenting Insights


About Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD

Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD is a psychotherapist in Southern California with private practices in Santa Monica and Malibu. She helps parents, children, couples and individuals. A graduate of UCLA and Fuller School of Psychology, Dr. Miller also is involved in school-based education and consultation, an adjunct faculty member of the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Psychology, a wife, mother, and stepmother. 

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