More Screen Time can Delay Language Skills in Young Children

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found that the more time a child spends in front of a screen, the more it will delay and slow their language skills.

Sheri Madigan, associate professor at the University of Calgary, and her colleagues conducted this systematic review and meta-analysis to figure out the link of screen time with the development of language skills.

Source: CDC
Source: CDC

For this study, systematic review and meta-analysis were done from 42 studies. The quantity of screen use included duration of screen time and background television and language skills were measured. The child language outcome included assessments of receptive and/or expressive language. Qualitative studies were not included in it and children greater than the age of 12 were not part of the study. Effect size, child sex and age, screen measure types, the publication year of study and study design were taken into account.

There were a total of 18,905 participants from 42 studies. The results revealed that the more the quantity of screen use, the lower were the language skills while less and better quality of screen use was associated with stronger language skills of the children. Later age at screen use onset was also associated with stronger child language skills.

This meta-analysis of the studies shows that one should limit the child’s period of screen time and duration of screen exposure to select high-quality programming and to co-view.

Sheri Madigan says:

The majority of language learning [in the youngest children] comes from caregivers talking to children. It’s called a serve-and-return interaction, and that’s when children learn the language the most. Follow the AAP guidelines as much as possible. Screens can be used positively, but they should be used in moderation, and whenever possible, co-view with your children. And, prioritize your off-line interactions.

American Academy of Pediatrics Association Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new recommendations for children screen time:

  • Children less than 2 years must avoid screen time but if needed video chatting can be allowed. High-quality programming should be chosen by the patients who want to introduce media and they should accompany the child so that they can help them understand it.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand.
  • For children of 6 years or above, parents should place a limit on the time spent on media and make sure that the time of sleep,physical activity and other behaviors essential to health doesn’t get affected by it.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.

Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement on media use in school-aged children and teens, says:

Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate media which can have both positive and negative effects. Parents can set expectations and boundaries to make sure their children’s media experience is a positive one. The key is mindful use of media within a family.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Orange County

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