Can Too Much Screen Time Cause Developmental Delays in Young Children?

In our modern age, more parents and teachers are turning to technology than ever before. Screen time is a normal household occurrence even with young children who might be too young for school or are just starting their elementary years. Researchers are now beginning to investigate what the implications might be for this excessive amount of screen time. Could it be causing developmental delays in young children?

Speech Delays

One of the biggest areas where developmental delays are seen in young children exposed to screens is in language. The impact of prolonged exposure to technology is staggering. According to one study, children who watched television before their first birthday typically watched more than two hours per day. However, this isn’t the most surprising part of the study. In comparison to the control group, the children who watched television were six times more likely to have delayed speech compared to the others.

Other studies performed by pediatrician Catherine Birken determined that even thirty minutes each day could be detrimental. They had parents self-report how much time children spent on phones or tablets daily. Most children spent around thirty minutes but they were all more likely to have speech delays. For each additional thirty-minute increment, the children were 49 percent more likely to have an expressive speech delay.

While this developmental delay is certainly significant, it is not the only thing that should concern parents who encourage screen time for their children. Psychology Today argues that we are fundamentally changing the way a child’s brain develops when we expose them to screens at early ages. Their ability to use language certainly decreases, but they also lose the ability to carry on a conversation or to read the body language and attitudes of other people.

Attention and Focus

As a child grows up, he or she will need to be attentive and focused in order to acquire new skills This is essential for classroom learning as well as everyday life with parents and peers. Unfortunately, screen time tends to diminish a child’s ability to focus long enough to acquire these new skills quickly. One of the biggest long-term effects of screen time at an early age is a decreased attention span.

On the games and shows available right at their fingertips, children are exposed to excessive amounts of stimuli. This makes it difficult for them to concentrate on any one task. However, it also teaches them to crave that type of stimulation that doesn’t require any thought or effort on their part. Everything they could ever want is given to them through the games. They never learn to be imaginative or creative the same way children might have done a few generations ago.

While technology does offer some promising advances for education, it is still too early to tell what we may be sacrificing. Too much screen time can certainly cause developmental delays in young children, particularly in regards to their language development and attention spans. This should be something to highly consider prior to allowing technology to babysit our young children.


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