New study finds speech delay in babies and toddlers correlates to screen time

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A new study being presented this week at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting found that tablet and smartphone use by babies and toddlers correlates with a speech delay. Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children assessed 894 children from six months to two years. By their 18-month checkup, children who were on tablets or smartphones for 30 minutes or more a day had a 49 percent increased chance of delayed expressive speech.

The researchers used a checklist (a validated speech delay screening tool) to see if the children who had regular time on a tablet or smartphone used sounds or words to get attention or help and, if so, how many words they used and how they put them together. Catherine Birken, MD, the study’s principal investigator says:

“Handheld devices are everywhere these days,... While new pediatric guidelines suggest limiting screen time for babies and toddlers, we believe that the use of smartphones and tablets with young children has become quite common. This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay.” 

The study supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation for no screen time for children 18 months and younger. However, the AAP guidelines allow for use of high-quality programming watched with a parent or caregiver for toddlers 18 months to 2 years.  I believe this most recent study points to why screen time for kids under 24 months is not a good idea. There is substantial evidence that shows language is learned much better with human-to-human than with a computer.

President's proposed budget cuts slash after-school funding = more screen time

“President Trump’s proposed budget will lead to even more screen time for our nation’s children.” —Dr. Delaney Ruston, Screenagers

Photo by FatCamera/iStock / Getty Images

In the president’s plan, the Department of Education’s total budget would be slashed by $9 billion. One of the hardest hit will be after-school programs, key support for families.

More than $1.2 billion in grants for after-school programs are on the chopping block. These programs are essential for reducing time kids, and teens spend on screens and increasing academic and behavioral performance.  

“The research shows that when kids are in afterschool programs, their self-confidence increases, their behavior improves and their grades go up,” says Dr. Ruston.

School-aged children spend on average 6.5 hours a day playing, watching and interacting with screens—this does not include school work.  

“The growing amount of time kids and teens spend on screens each day is disturbing,” says  Dr. Ruston. “There are definitive studies that correlate more screen time with lower test scores and an overall decrease in academic performance.”

Jodi Grant, Executive Director of Afterschool Alliance, knows that after school programs are an essential part of supporting families who need it the most.  “The current federal investment in afterschool is modest, but it is absolutely vital to families and communities across the country, supporting afterschool for 1.6 million children. Still, for every child now in an afterschool program, two more are waiting to get in. At this time when one in five children in this country is unsupervised after the school day ends, we should be investing much more in afterschool programs, not cutting the funding we have,” says Grant.

After school programs not only provide a safe place for many low-income kids with working parents but gives these kids an enriching environment that helps them succeed in the classroom and grow emotionally. These programs fill children’s lives with activities and mentoring that replace screen time.

If these engaging programs are cut, children, especially those from lower-income households that rely on federally-funded after-school activity centers, will spend more time on devices.

National Day of Unplugging

The morning of March 3rd until the morning of March 4th, 2017 is National Day of Unplugging. This day is designed to help people of all ages to embrace the ancient ritual of a day of rest and we are so excited that Screenagers is a co-sponsor! 

The goal of this important 24 hours is to open our eyes to how tech is so immersed in our lives. For some of us our device is like a third hand.  Starting with just this one day, we encourage you to step back get a new perspective on your tech time, by not having tech time. 

Recently, a mom emailed me after she and her daughter watched Screenagers. She wrote "My 17-year-old daughter says she was interested in how technology causes one's brain to behave in ways that we can't control.” Getting more kids to ponder these question is key. Do this day with your whole family—invite grandparents, aunts and uncles, whole classrooms, entire schools and your religious organization to join. 

I had my daughter Tessa write a bit of this TTT and this is what she wrote: 

"Who knows who you might meet if you look up during a train ride or the conversation you might have in the car with your kids while you drive them around. Read the book on your bedside table that you have been meaning to finish, try to fall asleep early and catch up on sleep. Look in a cookbook that you used to love and get inspired to cook a meal".

To sign up to be a part of the National Day of Unplugging go to >>http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/

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