Screen Time


1. A puzzling problem

Is there a way to avoid a visit to a speech language pathologist for potential language delays? Decreasing screen time is one answer!

Over the past 10 years, my colleagues and I noticed a disturbing trend. Parents were bringing their bright, young children into our office for speech and language delays. During the first session we usually asked: How much time does your child spend on an ipad, smartphone, or desktop each day? The replies were often in the range of 1-2 hours a day. Of course, the content was educational in nature!

2. A novel solution

We suggested that screen time be completely cut out. Instead, parents should focus on interacting directly with their children. In almost all of these cases, the child’s language delays dramatically improved over a short period. As speech pathologists, we had always felt that screen time hampers a child’s speech development. Children who are exposed to technology through these common devices spend less time talking and interacting with others. They miss out on so much information that comes from human interactions.

3. Research findings

In August 2017, the American Association for Speech and Hearing published an article detailing recent research in this area. Dr. Catherine Birken, staff pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, conducted a study on the effects of screen time from 2011 to 2015. She found that the average 18 month old viewed a screen for 28 minutes a day. She also discovered that each 30 minute increase in handheld screen time translated into a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay.

In June 2018, the American Speech & Hearing Association published an article written by Samah Saidi, CCC-SLP. Ms. Saidi had also recently seen an increase in referrals of children 4 and younger. Upon further investigation, she found that these young children were often exposed to screen times of 5-7 hours per day!

Ms. Saidi offered parents the following strategies:

  • Set aside dedicated times each day to play and engage with their children, from infancy and up.
  • Limit their own time on screens, as parents model healthy and appropriate behavior
  • Create “screen free” zones in their homes and during certain activities-while outdoors or at the dinner table, for example.

If you would like additional direction regarding screen time and/or speech delays, please contact us. We are happy to help!