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Study finds direct correlation between increased screen time for toddlers and delays in language development
By Laura Harris // Mar 08, 2024

A recent study conducted by the Telethon Kids Institute in Australia has found a direct correlation between increased screen time for toddlers and delays in their language development.

The study, which spanned two-and-a-half years and involved monitoring 220 Australian families, uncovered alarming insights into the potential impact of technology on the crucial early years of a child's linguistic growth.

The families, who had toddlers aged 18 to 36, had their kids wear a device capturing 16 hours of audio daily in their homes, leading to over 7,000 hours worth of recordings. Families involved in the study were unaware that screen time would be measured during recording to ensure a more realistic view of young children's screen exposure. (Related: Screen time linked to developmental delays in young children.)

According to the results, published in JAMA Pediatricstoddlers who are 18 to 36 months of age spend approximately three hours a day on screens, which, in turn, results in a significant decline in their language skills.

The study found that at 36 months, there is a concerning decrease of 6.6 adult words for each additional minute of screen time. This cumulative effect amounted to a loss of 1,139 adult words, 843 vocalizations and 194 conversations per day.

Mary Brushe, senior researcher for the study, explained the importance of early interaction for language development. She claimed that screen time disrupts the necessary amount of talking and interaction children require.

"Our findings support the notion of 'technoference' as a real issue for Australian families, whereby young children's exposure to screen time is interfering with opportunities to talk and interact in their home environment," said Brushe. "Because we haven't been able to capture parents' silent screen-related activities, such as reading emails, texting, or quietly scrolling through websites or social media. The devices only picked up noise associated with screen time – for example, TV shows, videos or games. This meant we ended up with a more realistic view of young children’s screen exposure because parents were not subconsciously altering their normal habits."

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Furthermore, psychology lecturer Rachael Sharman at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland reveals a link between increased screen time and social skill problems at younger ages. She explained that brain imaging studies suggested that increased screen time is associated with reduced white matter tracts in the brain, which is crucial for the development of language and cognitive abilities.

"Spending a great deal of time in the outdoors is associated with higher grey matter in regions associated with working memory and attention," she said.

Parents know the adverse effects of screen time, but some have no choice but to allow it

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, parents consider excessive screen time and its adverse effects to be the foremost health concern for their children.

For instance, one parent, deeply concerned about the potential harm, shared on the social platform Reddit that their three-year-old daughter is strictly prohibited from using any tablet or phone under any circumstances. The parent, working in product design, discussed their awareness of the problems these apps cause for adults, let alone children.

"I wouldn't judge those that allow their kids to; I know how tough it is to find a break, but I've been strict for a reason. I work in product design and know a lot of the problems these apps cause adults, never mind children. We are learning more and more about the damage caused, and it genuinely frightens me," the parent wrote.

However, some parents, despite reservations, still find themselves resorting to using screens as a temporary solution to juggle daily responsibilities.

"We have a 14-month-old and only use the TV when we really need a break. We have no family nor friends nearby, so sometimes, for example, if one of us is showering and the other one has to make dinner, we use the TV. It’s easy to say 'Let the toddler play with you in the kitchen meanwhile then' or whatever, but sorry, our son is super demanding and wants to be held A LOT. So no, sometimes we need to use the TV to be able to function," the parent explained.

Visit BrainDamaged.news for more stories about the harmful effects of screen time.

Watch this video to learn how excessive screen time and the pandemic affect children's eyesight.

This video is from the High Hopes channel on Brighteon.com.

More related stories:

Study: Childhood inactivity and screen time linked to heart damage in young adults.

Are screens as bad for toddlers as they say? Study says yes.

Study: Excessive screen time during COVID-19 lockdowns impaired children’s sense of balance.

Excessive use of video games, social media and the internet linked to poor academic performance.

Screen time found to have direct impact on speech delays in babies, reveals new research.

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