Speech and language delays linked to Toddler's screen time

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.


Jody Vaynshtok

Jody is a California-licensed speech language pathologist with eight years of industry and clinical experience. She has worked with both adult and pediatric populations during her time at private practice, birth-to-three, and hospital facilities. She is experienced in the assessment and treatment of a variety of communication and cognitive disorders. In addition, Jody has a passion for working with adults looking to achieve clearer communication. Jody received her BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences and MS in Medical Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Washington. She was a part of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford’s cleft and craniofacial clinic participating in the multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of children born with craniofacial abnormalities. She holds a staff position at UCSF and is the lead speech language pathologist for the department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Hearing Loss Clinic. When she's not busy having fun with her clients Jody enjoys spending time with her husband, Anton, friends and family. And if she's not headed out somewhere fun for dinner, you might find her at Bar Method working out!