The more time children under age 2 spend playing with smart phones, tablets, electronic games and other handheld screens, the more likely they are to begin talking later, according to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in May. This study is the first to show the effects mobile devices have on speech development.
The immediate effects of delayed speech are seen in children’s inability to express themselves adequately, which can leave them frustrated. But longer term consequences can be delays in developing literacy skills in the grade school years, which have been linked to academic problems later and increased school dropout rate.
Mobile devices have quickly become ubiquitous in our lives, so what can parents do to help their children develop digital literacy yet offset long-term effects of too much screen time? Physicians suggest teaching children to use these devices as tools rather than purely entertainment. They suggest parents use screen time to teach a child about the world in much the same way they read a book with the child, including talking about the story, discussing the pictures, asking children to predict what might happen next and finding objects on the page. This approach helps retain some of the interactions between parent and child that we know are key to growing healthy brains that will support a lifetime of learning.