Here’s more reason to keep your baby far away from screens: it can cause speech delays, according to recent research.
Presented at the 2017 Pediatrics Academic Societies Meeting, the study found that, in children 6 months to 2 years old, more time spent on a handheld device or gadget led to a higher likelihood of speech delay.
“I believe it's the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children,” lead researcher Dr. Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, told CNN.
The study involved nearly 900 children whose parents were asked to track their 18-month-old's screen time. At the same time, the researchers also assessed the children’s language development using a tool that looked at the child’s ability to use sounds or words to communicate and put words together. The number of words each child could speak was also noted.
Results showed that 20 percent of the tots used a gadget for an average of 28 minutes a day. What’s more, every additional 30 minutes of screen time was linked to a 49% increased risk for expressive speech delay, or communication that made use of sounds and words, according to the researchers.
More research and evidence is needed to find a definite link between speech delay and device use in children, said Dr. Birken. However, she added, the findings support American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) screen time recommendations.
APA recommends that children below 18 months should avoid screens altogether, and the only exception is when it’s used for video-chatting with family and friends.
Children a little older, those between 18 and 24 months, are allowed screens provided that parents choose high-quality programming. The AAP gives Sesame Street as an example, so age-appropriate educational children’s shows should be a safe bet. Parents should co-watch with their toddlers as well, says the AAP.
For kids ages 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be at a maximum of 1 hour a day. Again, it should be composed of high-quality programs with parents co-watching.
Local child development expert, Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, who spoke at our "Smart Parenting's Mom Workshop: Raising Toddlers," says screen time can have adverse effects on toddlers especially with their ability to focus and stay attentive. She also does not recommend any screens for children ages 0 to 2.
“I've been in the classroom for 20 years, and in the early years we hardly had any attention problems,” said Lichauco-Tambunting, who is the co-founder and directress of Young Creative Minds Preschool. “But now, we have more and more children who just can't stay put and focus.”
“At 0 to 2 years old, that’s the time before they go to preschool. If the child already had so much screen time [at that age], then that's going to be a toddler or a preschooler who hardly sits down, who cannot finish a puzzle or coloring, or who will not share because they cannot wait for their turn,” she told the moms attending our workshop.
Instead of putting a screen in front on your baby, Lichauco-Tambunting says jovially, “Halik-halikan niyo na lang! There are so many things you can do. The screen is the worst for your 0 to 2. They're still babies!”