Early Use of Electronic Devices May Lead to Speech Delays

Abigail Smith, Staff Reporter

On Thursday, the 2017 Pediatric Academic Society meeting released findings of a study that show what electronic devices can do to a child. Studies show more time children the ages of 6 months to 2 years spent using handheld screens like smartphones, iPads, etc., the more likely they were to experience speech delays.  

Doctor Cathrine Birken is the study’s senior investigator and pediatrician at a children’s hospital Toronto, Ontario. She stated “It’s the first time that we’ve sort of shown a light on this potential issue, but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it’s really a first look.”

The study involved nearly 900 children, parents reported how much time the children used electronic devices per day at 18 months old. Researchers used a common diagnostic tool to assess children’s language and development also at 18 months old.

Researchers looked to see if the children would use sounds, or words to get attention or help, put words together and how many different words a child could say.  20% of the children used electronic devices for an average of 28 minutes a day.

The study shows that every 30 minute increase in daily electronic device use linked to 49% increased risk of what researchers say expressive speech delay.

Birken at the university stresses there needs to be much more research done to confirm this study. She also mentioned that they need to review what the children are viewing and doing on the electronic devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics  stated, “You need trials. You need good evidence, at least longitudinal studies, but this, at least, this finding is identifying an association and it does support the current recommendation.”

For kids up to 24-months-old the Academy recommends to ban screens from this age group completely.

Two women who wrote the book “Time to Talk” screens are usually used in the first two years of the children’s lives and can affect them being social with other children and even their parents. Some parents usually let them use the screens because they aren’t bothering them and they think it’s okay.

More technology is going to come out and more and more children are going to be using electronic devices, it’s already affecting their speech development and social skills, it’s going to get worse and increase to a higher number if this does not stop.