Toddlers’ Screen Time Linked to Slower Speech Development, Study Finds
Hand-held screens might delay a child’s ability to form words, based on new research.
Principal researcher Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, gathered her data from well-child visits, the regular checkups that assess a child’s growth, health and development. From 2011 to 2015, she asked the parents of to estimate how much time their children spent each day with hand-held screens, like smartphones, tablets and electronic games. Meanwhile, Birken and her team assessed each child with the Infant Toddler Checklist — a screening tool that looks for signs of delayed communication development.
In total, Birken’s team recruited and examined nearly 900 toddlers, aged 6 to 24 months, for the study. By the time they reached their 18-month checkups, 20 percent of the children used mobile devices for 28 minutes on average each day. They found children who spent more time with hand-held screens were more likely to exhibit signs of a delay in expressive speech — how children use their sounds and words, and how they put their words together to communicate.
Each additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time was linked to a 49 percent increased risk in expressive speech delay. Other forms of communication — gestures, emotions, social eye-gazing — were unaffected.