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Is Too Much Screen Time Bad for Speech and Language Development?
This is the 2nd article in the “The Impact of Technology on Child Development” series. If you missed the 1st article, it covered the Hidden Dangers of Blue Light and Digital Devices on Children’s Eyes.
My friend’s three and a half year old was showing signs of delayed speech. As parents, they did what any concerned parent would do and took him to his pediatrician.
Let me back up and give you details of what they are experiencing.
They have a three-year-old boy who is a classic “textbook sensory seeker”; he just can’t get enough of anything and is extremely delayed in his speech and social skills.
He manages tablet and mobile extremely well as many of his peers do.
At first, I thought it was incredible to watch him wrap his little fingers around the family iPad or his mother’s cell phone, swiping through icons to get to a particularly entertaining video or “educational” game.
He taps “play” and exudes pleasure and pure joy. After watching the video once or playing the game a few rounds, he swipes back to the main screen to open another app where he watches an episode of a colorful cartoon. Halfway through, he moves onto another game that involves animated fruit entering a character’s belly.
When they try to take away the iPad, they suffer through one heck of rage that threatens to go nuclear; a trembling lip, tears, feet kicking the floor, hands balled into fists and a high-pitched screaming session.
He seems to prefer the iPad or smartphone to everything else.
There are times when they are the only things that will shut him up.
He has what on the surface appear to be symptoms of autism, but the autism specialist they took him to is reluctant to have him fully evaluated until he is 4. He could already tell that their son didn’t exactly match autism, and believed that it would be correctly diagnosed if they waited.
Based on their reading, his parents think he may be diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which affects one in twenty people in the general population and tends to be hereditary.
The origin of Sensory Processing Disorder is unknown. Previous research and studies suggest that SPD is often inherited.
No one in either family has SPD, and except for very few symptoms, he does not fit the symptom profile.
Another thought they have is that he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS); PPD-NOS symptoms include:
• Inappropriate social behavior
• Uneven skill development (motor, sensory, visual-spatial-organizational, cognitive, social, academic, behavioral)
• Speaking and language comprehension skills that are poorly developed
• Difficulty with transitions
• Non-verbal and/or verbal communication deficits
• Taste, sight, sound, smell and/or touch sensitivities increase or decrease
• Perseverative (repetitive or ritualistic) behaviors (ie opening and closing doors repeatedly or turning lights on and off).
He is extremely physically active (especially with his constant physical activity, running and jumping), he doesn’t follow directions well, which I attribute to a lack of discipline, but he is affectionate with his family and relatives and makes good eye contact.
He has a big appetite and eats almost anything put in front of him, does well in crowds and generally around others as long as he doesn’t have to have direct interaction because his verbal skills and social skills, e.g. manners and the like are underdeveloped. . His fine motor skills are okay, not great. He can’t hold a pencil and fist like a two year old with a pencil.
His verbal skills and social skills are underdeveloped.
He understands much more than he lets on. He doesn’t imitate sounds or vocabulary much, if at all.
His parents know he is cognitively delayed, but it is difficult to determine how delayed, because of the type of child he is and his lack of discipline, which I believe his parents did not invest the time to develop.
The only word he uses consistently and appropriately is “pop,” and he excitedly points to his grandfather whenever possible. He often babbles, which is baby talk that consists of words but not complete conversational sentences. Thus, his vocabulary is limited and seems to be what he hears in video games and YouTube. He doesn’t seem to have the concept of putting a word with a picture other than what he sees in videos or ‘educational games.’
From everything they’ve read about sensory seekers, extreme speech delay doesn’t seem to be particularly common.
They recently had their son evaluated by an occupational therapist and a speech therapist.
During the evaluations, they were asked how much screen time he had each day. They calculate that he averages 45 to 60 minutes a day; from what I have observed, I believe it is higher and closer to 90 minutes spread throughout the day.
A tablet/iPad/Android or smart phone has replaced a nanny and one on one interaction. We all lead busy lives and the few minutes of downtime it allows seemed to be harmless, or so they thought.
The speech therapist showed them the data from a recent Journal of Pediatrics study “Hands-on screen time linked with speech delays in young children.” The study “suggests that the more time children under 2 spend playing on smartphones, tablets and other portable screens, the more likely they are to start talking later.”
“According to the study, 20 percent of children under the age of two spend about 30 minutes a day using screens, leading to an almost 50 percent increased risk of speech delay.”
This study was completed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada by pediatricians who examined screen time and its effects on 900 children between 6 months and two years of age.
The results of the study demonstrated that there is a 49% increased chance of delayed speech for every additional 30 minutes spent on a touch screen, whether it is a tablet, iPad, iPhone or Android device.
Think about this for a few moments:
• 10% of American children under the age of 2 used tablets or smartphones in 2011, the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the iPad.
• By 2013, 40% of children 2 and under had access to a tablet or smartphone.
• By 2015, 58% of children under the age of two used a tablet or mobile phone.
According to a Nielsen Study, more than 70 percent of children under 12 use tablets and iPads. A recent study from the Journal of Pediatrics showed that:
• 20% of 1-year-olds own a tablet.
• 28% of 2-year-olds could navigate a mobile phone without help.
• 28% of parents said they use a mobile device to put their children to sleep.
The rate of adoption of tablets, iPads and smartphones by children under 3 has grown more than 5 times in 4 years with the unknown impact on their cognitive development.
There is little scientific data on the consequences of long-term use of tablets, iPads and smartphones; although studies are done.
Optometrists are seeing a sharp increase in young children with myopia (short-sightedness). The World Health Organization has documented that myopia is growing at an alarming rate worldwide and screen use is a well-accepted contributing factor resulting from the early introduction of mobile devices to children.
Interactive screens such as iPads, tablets and smartphones are known to disrupt sleep. The blue light emitted by the ultra-sharp screens prevents the release of melatonin, an important sleep hormone that interferes with the body’s natural rhythms, leading to sleep disturbances in adults and children due to their use.
Blue light is harmful because it is the highest energy wavelength of visible light. This energy is also able to penetrate to the back of the eye, through the natural filters of the eyes, and that is the point. Long-term exposure causes damage to the retina.
Currently, there is broad, in-depth research on TV exposure and children, but little in-depth, long-term research on the impact of interactive screens from smartphones, iPads, and Android tablets. Studies are currently underway; however, the jury is still out.
Pediatricians and child development experts agree that while passive screen time in front of a TV or iPad or tablet for a 30-minute session of video games or “educational” games might be entertaining, it will not provide a rich learning or experience. develop fine or gross motor skills. And there are developmental and cognitive risks.
Research has confirmed that having a video or television running in the background negatively affects their development when a child is engaged in play and learning. This is a distraction from the task at hand and lowers their concentration.
Studies have confirmed that hours of background television decreases child-parent interaction, which hinders a child’s language development.
This is a big concern: if children are stuck with screen-based babysitters such as tablets, iPads and smartphones, they are not interacting with parents and siblings or the real world.
There are only so many hours in a day, and time spent on screens comes at a high price, taking time away from better activities that develop fine and gross motor skills, expand their knowledge and skills, build social skills, and expand verbal language. skills
Children under the age of three need a well-balanced group of activities ranging from guided play (maths worksheets/games, coloring pages, puzzles and games, arts and crafts), time to explore nature, handle and play with physical toys and socialize with other siblings and peers along with adults.
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued guidelines on screen time were issued. Prior to this update, AAP established that the general screen time limit of no more than two hours per day in front of the TV for children over 2 years old.
The revised AAP guidelines recommend:
• One hour a day for children from 2 to 5 years old.
• Parents should supervise and set restrictions for children 6 years and older.
• Under age 18 months there should be no screen time allowed and they should not be exposed to any digital media.
o A baby’s brain, eye and speech experience a rapid phase of growth and development that makes them the most vulnerable to screens.
Any amount of time spent using tablets, iPads, or smartphones for entertainment purposes is what the AAP defines as screen time.
As parents we must remember that we are our children’s main role models, therefore the habits we have, we directly and indirectly instill in our children.
We need to be very aware of our own behaviors and this means turning off our smartphones, putting down the tablet or iPad along with the TV and laptop and being here and now with our children.
Kids can tell when our heads are still on the email we just read on our phone. By not paying attention to them, this usually makes their behavior worse.
As parents we must establish media free time every day and spend this time with our attention 100% focused on our children and engaging with them. Smart phones, iPads, Android tablets or phones are removed at dinner. This is family time. The same applies to all bedrooms. Bedrooms are meant for sleeping.
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