The sight of a baby swiping an iphone is incredibly cute, and that tiny screen may be helping mum and dad get dinner cooked—but it’s also harming bub’s speech development.
In fact experts are urging parents to reduce their toddlers’ screen time to zero, to prevent delays in their speech development. It’s a tough call for many mums and dads, with many giving mobile devices to their toddlers to keep them occupied.
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In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe, parenting researcher Dr Justin Coulson said 9 out of 10 toddlers are now being given smart phones and ipads to play with before the age of two.
But sadly, their speech is being delayed as a result, according to research.
“If you’ve got children younger than 18 to 24 months, the correct amount of screen time for them is essentially zero…it’s not good for them.”
“Parents just don’t understand the risks,” Dr Coulson said. “The more time on the screens, the greater the risk of speech delay. Children are using these smart devices before they can talk, because they don’t have the same barriers computers used to. You used to have to be able to operate a keyboard and a mouse.”
A study of 894 children between six months and two years of age, found that the more handheld screen time a child’s parent reported, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech. In fact for every 30-minute increase in phone and ipad time, there was an almost 50% increased risk.
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Screens Robbing Toddlers of Face-To-Face Interaction
Dr Coulson said early research is showing that it’s probably because screens are robbing little ones of from face-to-face time with their parents.
“It’s the talking, mum or dad saying ‘Look there are the stairs, would you like to walk up the stairs with me? Let’s count them’. Or we might say ‘look at the dog, what noise does the dog make?’ or , ‘Wow, look at the clouds up in the sky, can you see what colour they are? They’re white and the sky is blue.’
“It’s this kind of conversation we have with our children ongoingly that promotes healthy speech development, and time on devices minimises that interaction.”
Dr Coulson said mobile phones and tablets aren’t the only culprits.
“Screens, even in the background, interfere with childrens’ sleep, cognitive development, speech, and physical activity.”
“There are studies that tell us that television and screens, even in the background, interfere with childrens’ ability to sleep, their cognitive development, their speech, and their physical activity,” Dr Coulson said. “I think the risks are actually great. And wise parents do what they can to minimise their childrens’ access to screens.
“If you’ve got children who are younger than 18 to 24 months, the correct amount of screen time for them is essentially zero. They don’t need it, it’s not good for their development.
“The American Academy of Paediatrics, which is the go-to organisation for guidelines around this sort of stuff, they bring the experts together and analyse the science, they’re saying, unequivocally, no screens for children under two.”
As a parent of six, Dr Coulson is familiar with the demands of parenting toddlers. But he urges parents to be as engaged as possible, and find non-screen ways of keeping their toddlers occupied.
“Let’s be real. Life is busy, sometimes you do need to put the child down so you can prepare dinner or go to the toilet,” he said. “But the more we put them down and use a screen as our saviour, the more we actually make things harder for them and for us in the long run, based on what the research is increasingly suggesting.”