New research coming from the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting suggests that the more time children under 2 years old spend playing with smartphones, tablets and other handheld screens, the more likely they are to have a slower rate of acquiring language.
This study, which was presented by the principal investigator Dr. Catherine Birken, MD, MSc, FRCPC, this past Saturday here in SF, looked at 894 children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years in Toronto Canada. The study tracked these children for five years, between 2011 and 2015. The researchers noted that by the children's 18-month-check-ups, 20 percent of them had daily average handheld device use of 28 minutes, according to their parents. Using a developmental language screening tool, the researchers found that the more handheld screen time a child's parent reported, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech. For each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time, researchers found a 49 percent increased risk of expressive speech delay. Although expressive language delays were present, other communication modalities were not delayed including, social interaction, use of body language or gestures.
Dr. Birken had a high interest in this study, as she noted that pediatricians, developmental professionals and the media often draw attention to "screen time" as it relates to television programming, however often omits the discussion of handheld devices playing a part in a child's development.