Study Links Increased Screen Use to Speech Delays in Children Under Age 2

Many parents are concerned that screen time can negatively impact young children, who frequently use mobile devices like iPads and smartphones to play games and watch videos. Now, a new study says that letting a child under age 2 play with an iPad may cause him or her to have speech delays.

Principal investigator Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, told CNN that it is “the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children.” The research will be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting Saturday, May 6, in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Birken and others examined the amount of time children spent using screens, measuring several indicators — from the way a child puts words together to how many words he or she uses in a conversation. The study involved 894 children, ages 18 months to two years, and utilized a checklist-based screening tool to assess language development.

Key findings of the study include:

  • 20 percent of the children, according to parents, spent on average 28 minutes per day using screens;
  • Each 30-minute increase in daily screen time was linked to increased “expressive speech delay” (by about 49 percent); and
  • There is no link between the use of a handheld device and areas of communication other than speech, such as body language, social interaction, etc.

Overall, the researchers concluded that the more time children between the ages of six months to two years spent using tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices, the more likely they were to show signs of speech delays.  

The research abstract titled “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” is available here.

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Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].