Technology is omnipresent, and there’s no escaping it, especially when it comes to kids. There have been recent studies detailing the harmful effects of mobile phones, tablets and laptops have on infants, toddlers and school-age children, and a new one adds to the pile.
Canadian researchers have found that the more time ages six months to two years spend string at screens, such as smartphones and tablets, the more likely they were to experience delays in speech development, CNN reports.
Dr. Catherine Birken, pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario and the study’s main author, says,
I believe it’s the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children.
She adds, “It’s the first time that we’ve sort of shone a light on this potential issue, but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it’s really a first look.”
The study had close to 900 participants, with their parents reporting the amount of time their kids spent on their screens. The researchers then used an infant toddler checklist, which is a validated screening tool, to evaluate language development in the children at 18 months old. They included several factors, including the sounds or words the participants used to get attention, or how many words each child used.
According to the results, 20% of the kids spent an average of 28 minutes on screens daily. Every 30-minute increase in looking at screens corresponded to a 49% increased risk of what the researchers said was expressive speech delay, or using sounds and words to communicate.
They did not find any association between screen time and other forms of communication, such as gestures, body language and social interaction.
Birken, also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, says that while there is a link between communication delays and screen time, more research is needed to delve further into the issue.
The study was presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.