A New Study Shows Screen Time Can Cause Speech Delays in Baby

Say what?
ByKelly Corbett
Published
May 2017
two sibling boys watching tablet device

We already knew that too much screen time isn’t the best thing for baby (or us, for that matter). But a new study pinpointed a specific consequence: delayed speech development in toddlers.

On Thursday at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, some striking findings were announced concerning a relationship never before examined: the effect of screen time on speech development. In a study involving nearly 900 children, parents were asked to report the amount of time their child spent using screens in minutes per day at 18 months old. On average, 20 percent of kids spent 28 minutes a day. Researchers evaluated this against a variety of things involving speech development, including whether sounds or words were used to get attention or help, the ability to put words together and the number of words spoken.

The conclusion was alarming: Every additional 30 minutes of screen time per day was linked to a 49 percent increased risk of “expressive speech delay,” which involves problems using sounds and words to communicate.

Once further evaluated, these findings could influence the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time. In October, the AAP revised their guidelines, abandoning their former stance to keep babies under 2 completely away from screens. The new guidelines detailed that some forms of screen time are acceptable, but under certain constraints:

  • For babies under 18 months, video-chatting is okay here’s how Facetime can help baby learn, but otherwise, parents should limit their interactions with screens.
  • For babies 18 months or older, high-quality, educational programming can be beneficial. Parents watching and interacting with baby at the same time is also advised.
  • For kids 2 to 5, screen time should be capped at one hour of high-quality programing a day.
  • For kids 6 and older, rules should be established about what kind of media can be consumed and for how long to assure it won’t interfere with physical activity and sleep.

These looser guidelines come with the stipulation that screen time should be a collaborative learning experience.

"What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the new media policy statement on infants and toddlers, said in a press release.

While it’s almost a sigh of relief that baby can manage some limited screen time without their vision being affected, these new findings suggest a new risk altogether. In other words, we’re wondering if the AAP will revert back to the old guidelines, totally discouraging screen time for kids under 2.

Much more research is needed before any new policy can be implemented. For example, the study didn’t say whether kids were being monitored during screen time or evaluate what kind of content they were interacting with.

The good news: the study did not find any link between use of a handheld device and other areas of communication, such as gestures, body language and social interaction. Until we find out more and the official study is published, here are some ways to encourage speech development.

H/T CNN

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