Screen time and the bambinos

Hot topic alert.

Screen time has been on the minds of parents and professionals who work with children for a while and is of particular interest to speech-language pathologists. As of late, there has been a lot of talk and some research to suggest a link between screen time and delayed speech development.

There is a lot of debate about what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to how much exposure children have to technology. I thought I’d break down the current findings and medical recommendations for you so, when deciding screen time boundaries for your child, you have good information. I’m going to focus primarily on children 2 and under for this post (hence the “bambinos” in the title).

  • 2016: The American Academy of Pediatrics publishes several documents, highlighting their recommendations for screen time as it involves infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and a separate statement for school-aged children and adolescents. The AAP recommends children under 18 months not have any exposure to screen time with the exception of video chatting. Children between 18-24 months should have parental interaction when utilizing digital media and should be done with limited regularity. Children age 2 and above should have a maximum of 1 hour of screen time per day. Screen time should include high-quality programming and interaction with an adult.

  • 2017: Catherine Birken, lead researcher, presents findings from her study that suggest that children who use and are exposed to screen time before they can talk are at a higher risk of developing speech delays. The study reported that for every increase of 30 minute screen time exposure per day, there was a 49% increase in chance of a speech delay. This applies only to expressive language (actual speech), but not to other areas of language such as gestural communication or social interaction.

  • 2019: The World Health Organization publishes a document recommending no screen time to children under the age of 2, and limited screen time from 2-5 years of age.

 Yogurt paint for the win!
Yogurt paint for the win!

As a non-parent, I get a little jittery trying to hand down these recommendations to parents. I get exhausted taking care of my dog! I can only imagine the need for a break that parents must feel. Perhaps if you need a break, one of the following could be utilized:

  • Audiobooks! Many libraries have packs of books with puppets and the audio recording of a book.

  • Baby arts and crafts. Pinterest is full of things like this. Remember Skyler from my video earlier in the week? Here she is playing with yogurt paint. Not only was she entertained, but she was also fed in the process!

  • Outside time, especially for us Michiganders who only have limited outdoor time! Embrace the sunshine!

  • Walks with baby that can also include adults friends (or not!). If the weather is crummy, lots of schools have indoor tracks you can utilize.

  • Music and movement activities. Do you know about Rockabye Baby!? They have a TON of baby-versions of pop hits (Led Zepplin! Bruno Mars! Adele!). When my niece was a baby, her parents jammed to the Beatles on Rockabye Baby!

  • I have a magical library system where I live. They offer a billion different programs for parents and kids to attend that don’t require them to just “sit and listen.”

  • If you need to utilize screen time, participate in the screen time activity with the kiddo.

What you choose to do with your child is obviously up to you, but as your friendly, neighborhood speech-language pathologist, I just want to make sure you have information to work with!

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