The effects of screen time on young children’s language development…
These days, it’s pretty difficult to avoid the use of electronic devices, and actually, they can be very useful when used in the right way. As a parent, I have definitely been guilty of throwing an iPad under my son’s nose in an attempt to get the housework done or even get 5 minutes of peace and quiet! But, is this harmful? And what are the implications for our children’s development?
Research shows that children do not learn best from too much screen time and it can actually decrease the words and sentences that toddlers use and lead to a delay in language development. A study in Canada of 900 children found that for every 30-minute increase in daily handheld screen time, there was a 49% increased risk of expressive language delay!
So, how much screen time is OK?
Current recommendations suggest that:
- Infants and toddlers under 2 years old should have no screen time at all
- Children aged 2-5 years should have limited screen time – no more than 1 hour per day
Parents of 2-5 year-old children should also be mindful of what and how the children are watching the videos..
WHAT? Select high-quality programs
HOW? Watch the videos with your child so you can talk about what you’re seeing and relate it to your child’s everyday experiences.
These 2 factors could be even more important than how much they watch.
But, aren’t children’s programmes designed to be educational?
75% of the top-selling infant videos claim to be educational, but to date, there is no proof that media designed for children younger than 2 years is actually beneficial to their development. This is because:
- Children aged 12 months and younger cannot follow the changing scenes on a screen or a program’s dialogue.
- Children aged 12-18 months are not able to learn and remember information as well from a video as they are from a live person.
- Most of the content of educational media is not appropriate for children under 2. Young children generally don’t understand the content, but are instead interested in the exciting colours, quick scene changes, music/sounds, and interesting characters.
So how exactly does electronic media affect development?
Research shows that extended use of electronic media can lead to…
- Less interaction with parents – Children younger than 5 who watch television spend less time interacting with parents or siblings. An infant’s vocabulary growth is directly related to the amount of time parents spend speaking to them.
- Health consequences – In children under 3 years, television viewing has been associated with irregular sleep patterns which can affect a child’s mood, behaviour, and
- Less time spent reading books – Children who live in households with heavy media use spend a lot less time being read to or looking at books. These children are less likely to be able to read in comparison to peers who live in households with low media use.
What does this research mean for my family?
Realistically, modern parenting has such demands that from time-to-time, we all need to rely on a bit of screen time to get us through a busy day. But, if you can, try not to introduce electronic entertainment until your child is at least 2 years old and aim to limit their exposure as much as you can.
The best way to help your child to learn and develop is through 2-way interactions during normal everyday experiences – bath time, meal time or when you’re walking around the supermarket. That’s when the best language learning takes place!