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Screen time: What are we missing out on?

Recently I’ve been discussing how screen time effects children with a few different people.  It just seems to keep coming up.  These people are educated, good parents, and want the best for their families.  Yet in these discussions I was surprised how little they were aware of the effects that screen time had on children’s developing brains.  As a Communication Specialist, one of the first things that come to mind when parents say their child really enjoys playing on their phone is: But what kind of language stimulation are they missing out on during that time?

The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) reported a study that found the more handheld screen time a child’s parent reported, the more likely the child was to have expressive speech delays.

Other reasons I worry about include the effect all these images have on developing sustained attention.  In an article on the blog “Hands-on OT”, they discuss how much screen time effects your sensory system.

The faster the changes in the sensory information you’re taking in, the faster your brain needs to process it in order to keep up.

You might be reading this thinking, yeah right, like I can raise my kids in a no-screen time world?!  HAHA!  Yes I completely agree with you!  YEAH RIGHT!  My kids get 20 minutes of tablet/phone time a day after they’ve done all their chores, homework, read, etc.

I worry more about the constant need that parents feel to hand off their phone to their kids, especially in public places.  What is the stigma that families feel that their small child can’t just be children and be active and curious in a public place, such as a restaurant?  Think of the conversations adults can be having with their children about things around the room, people they see and food they will eat?

Just a few years ago, before we had smart phones, my husband and I were tag-teaming our very very energetic toddler – taking turns walking around with him while we waited for the food. I kind of miss having to do that instead of having the chance to just “turn them off” by handing them a device. Maybe we can all just be a little bit more supportive of each other when we’re out in public and appreciate children being interested in the world around them, even if it means they’re making noises or needing to walk around a restaurant or peek over a booth at the people next to them?  Just a thought from an SLP…



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