Are you aware that more than two-thirds of 2-year-olds are using tablets? Are you also aware that half of two-year-olds reportedly use smart phones and 1 in 4 use some sort of smart technology at the dinner table? The most recent studies report babies around a year of age are now amongst smart phone/tablet users as well. Let’s look at some recent facts from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA; based on a sample of 1,000 parents with kids 0-8 years of age):
- 68% of parents’ 2-year-olds use tablets; 59% use smartphones and 44% use video game consoles.
- 55% of parents voice concern that misuse of technology might be harming their children’s hearing; with respect to speech and language skills, the figure is 52%.
- 52% say they are concerned that technology negatively impacts the quality of their conversations with their children, with about the same percentage saying they have fewer conversations than they would like because of technology.
- Hearing loss among children is a concern; 72% of parents polled agree that loud noise from technology might lead to hearing loss in their children. Couple that with research showing that one in five Americans 12 and older has hearing loss that makes communication difficult, and you can begin to see the enormity of the problem.
Now before you get your panties in a bundle, thinking I am going to reprimand you for if you have a kiddo under 8 years of age, I am not. I will however, tell you the implications of this, as well as give recommendations on healthy levels of technology use for your young child.
Before we move forward, take a moment, as a parent, and think back to when you were a child. What did you do when you were bored? You played. You made up games with the toys and tools in front of you. This often required creative thinking and social interaction with another child or adult in the room. Interacting with other humans is necessary to increase a child’s speech and language skills! This is just not something a smart phone or tablet can replace.
And when there was no other child to play with you entertained yourself with toys and your own creative ideas on what to do/how to play with your toys. THIS is the biggest thing I see lacking in today’s generation of toddlers. The difference between US and THEM; we grew up WITHOUT these devices, so we can put them down and function without them, creatively and socially. We, however, appear to be training our children to rely on these devices rather than verbal and social communication with other human beings, from a very young age.
As a pediatric speech-language pathologist, it is scary to see how many children (with and without special needs) have NO idea how to play with toys. OR what I often see is a child revert back to playing with the same toys repeatedly and repeating the same type of play because no one has given them the opportunity to be creative and expand on their play skills (since they spend most of their time glued to a smart device).
As soon as many children catch a glimpse of a smart phone or tablet their brains appear to be wired to grab on to it and never let go. And forget about not giving it to them, they WILL have an absolute meltdown. Sound familiar? Let me tell you, this is not healthy for our kiddos.
So what am I saying? Well, the more technology your child is exposed during their infant and toddlers years, the more you will have to physically work to teach them social and play skills. It has started to occur that children with more exposure to these devices are also requiring more help with developing speech and language skills (I see this in my private practice). This is something that can be avoided!
Am I saying throw out the iPad and iPhone? NO! I think they are wonderful devices, especially to help non-verbal children communicate, teach concepts that may be difficult to get a child to engage in otherwise, and more (but I digress). That said, I am recommending that you limit the use for young children.
So what does that look like? Just like TV may be limited to 30 minutes a day, it’s a good idea to limit smart phone and tablet usage to 30 minutes or less per day, especially in the preschool population. A majority of your child’s time should be spent exploring toys, talking to you or another adult they spend time with and just interacting and engaging with humans, which forces them to use their brain to problem solve and be creative! Under the age of three, your child’s brain is developing at such a rapid pace that we want to make sure what they are are learning is how to be creative and interact with the world around them.
So, how long do you allow your kiddo to use an iPad, iPhone or other smart device each day?