Screen time linked with speech delay in toddlers, study

This is the first study to report an association between the two.

May 08 2017

We’ve all been warned about the damaging effect too much screen time can have on our wellbeing.

But now, researchers are warning parents about a link between time spent on a phone or tablet and speech delay.

Research presented at the annual Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco suggested that for every 30 minutes a child spends using a handheld device, the risk of a delay in expressive speech increased by 49 per cent, reports Science Daily.

The study involved 894 children aged between six months and two years, occurring over a three-year period. The press release reports that at the participant's 18-month check-ups, 20 per cent of the children had daily average handheld device use of 28 minutes, according to their parents. 

There were no other links between screen time and other communication delays - such as social interactions, body language or gestures.

"Handheld devices are everywhere these days," said Dr Catherine Birken, MD, MSc, FRCPC, the study's principal investigator and a staff paediatrician and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

"While new paediatric guidelines suggest limiting screen time for babies and toddlers, we believe that the use of smartphones and tablets with young children has become quite common. This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay."

Screen time recommendations for kids

The Australian Department of Health website recommends the following:

Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).

For children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (DVDs, computer and electronic games) should be limited to less than 1 hour per day.

For more information, click here.