Can Technology Limit Speech Development?
Though technology is beneficial in many ways for student learning and instruction, it can begin to lose its effects if used in excess. As technology becomes more pervasive within homes, schools, and communities, many researchers have begun to question the impact screen time can have on speech development.
What is Screen Time?
Screen time is defined as any time a person spends with a technological device that has a screen. This includes televisions, movie theaters, computers, tablets, smartphones, and electronic toys with screens. Educational games are also included when discussing screen time.
Pediatricians recommend no screen time for children who are under the age of two. No more than half an hour a day is recommended for children between the ages of two and three, and no more than an hour for children between the ages of three and five. Some experts recommend children under the age of twelve have no access to hand-held devices at all.
How Does Screen Time Impact Speech?
Many parents turn to educational apps and games in part to help their child with development and academic goals. However, research studies are beginning to indicate a correlation between cognitive developmental delays and extended exposure to technology.
When small children are given access to excessive amounts of screen time too early in life, it can cause damage to brain development. Instead of fostering learning gains, it appears the ability to concentrate, focus, communicate, and build a vocabulary are negatively affected. Between the ages of birth and three the developmental needs of children are very specific and require interactive stimulation which is lacking in screen time. The lack of this stimulation can stunt development and could affect the child for the rest of their life. After the age of two, these types of devices can be introduced on a limited basis and have positive effects on learning, coordination, reaction time, and even communication skills.
Work in More Talk Time
It is important caregivers be encouraged to work more face to face talk time with their children. This is especially true for those children who are already exhibiting speech or learning delays. While it can be tempting to recommend one of the many popular apps or games developed to address these delays, direct communication still needs to be a priority. Many parents of very young children were raised with these types of devices, and they have become part of their daily life. It is natural for them to want to incorporate the same technology with their children. As many are unaware of the potential harm excessive screen time can cause, it is important they be given this information.
Speech therapists can work with parents and give them the resources, skills, research, and tools they need to increase personal interaction with their children and lessen their reliance on technological devices for entertainment and education. Doing so can reduce the overall time children are spending on screens and potentially address speech issues which may be exacerbated with their continued use at high levels.
This is not to say that technology isn’t beneficial for helping children learn or stay engaged. A simple balance and time limits are suggested for screen time and the use of technology devices.