baby speech-language development delays with excess screen time

Study: Baby Speech-Language Development Delay & Screen Time Linked

A recent study found that babies’ speech-language development and problem-solving skills were noticeably delayed when they were exposed to hours of screen time daily.

Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association of Pediatrics revealed 1-year-olds exposed to 4+ hours of screen time daily were later found to have delays with communication / speech-language development, as well as executive skills. Compared to their peers who spent less time on screens, they were also more likely to be delayed with fine motor, personal, and social skills, though these tended to dissipate by the time they reached the age of 4. But the executive functioning and speech-language development delays did not improve by that time – absent early intervention, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy.

As Brecksville speech therapists and occupational therapists, we recognize that parents today have a lot on their plates. Screens can be a fast-and-easy crutch when you need your child occupied for a few minutes so you can catch up. It’s also true that there are plenty of apps and video programs that can be positive for kids. But it’s important to be mindful of the fact that too much screen time – especially with content that lacks any educational value – could be detrimental to your child’s speech-language development.

Study authors, who examined the developmental progress and screen time hours of some 8,000 children, were careful to say that there was no definitive conclusion that there was a causal link to screen time and delays. Rather, the theory is that higher levels of screen time equals less face-to-face time with your child. That said, the more screen time babies had, the more likely they were to show developmental delays.

Northeast Ohio pediatric speech therapists know that face-to-face interactions with babies and young children is the foundation of their speech and language development. Through these interactions, children glean SO much information – facial expression, tone of voice, words/vocabulary, physical feedback, etc. All of this they use to understand and convey the meaning of language – verbal and non-verbal. Frankly, that doesn’t happen watching a screen (particularly if there is no educational value in it).

Researchers did say the study didn’t distinguish between educational screen time and “junk” screen time – an angle they say should definitely be explored as developmental experts delve further into the subject with further analysis.

Reality is: Screens aren’t going anywhere. It would be unrealistic to expect parents to cut it out entirely. But the research does underscore the importance of keeping it in moderation.

Tips for Cutting Young Kids’ Screen Time

To mitigate these potential negative impacts too much screen time (and risking the possibility of cognitive and speech-language development delays) our Brecksville speech therapists recommend parents consider implementing the following strategies:

  1. Set Screen Time Limits: Establish clear limits on screen time for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 hour of high-quality screen time per day for children aged 2 to 5.
  2. Prioritize Real-Life Interactions: Encourage face-to-face interactions and engage in activities that promote language development, such as reading, storytelling, and conversation.
  3. Promote Physical Activity: Ensure that children have ample opportunities for physical play and outdoor activities to support motor development.
  4. Select High-Quality Content: If screen time is allowed, choose educational and interactive content that supports learning and engagement.
  5. Model Balanced Screen Use: Be a positive role model by demonstrating balanced screen use and prioritizing real-life interactions.
  6. Create Screen-Free Zones: Designate certain areas or times in your home as screen-free zones to encourage other activities.
  7. Monitor Content: Supervise the content children are exposed to and ensure it’s age-appropriate and beneficial.

Remember that every child is unique. It’s important to find a balance that works for your family’s values and the developmental needs of your child.

If you have questions – or concerns that your child may have a speech-language development delay – our team of early intervention therapists can help! Call to schedule a free screening – or a full evaluation after physician referral.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

More Screen Time Linked to Delayed Development in Babies, Study Finds, Aug. 21, 2023, By Matt Richtel, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapists Detail Top Language Delay Causes, July 6, 2023, Brecksville Kids’ Speech Therapy Blog