An alert investigation on the use of tablets and cell phones. Children who are exposed to screens develop speech with delay.
Unfortunately smartphones and tablets are often used as "babysitters of the digital age." It is common to see that parents and guardians of children decide to entertain them with this type of device, believing that it is something positive and that it stimulates their intelligence. However, a study revealed that it affects the development of children.
The research carried out by the University of Toronto in conjunction with the Children's Hospital of that city in Canada, was based on a total of 894 children between 6 months and 2 years. The results will be presented at the 2017 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, one of the most prestigious worldwide in terms of pediatrics.
The study extensively analyzed the connection between the time that youngsters spend in front of screens and language development. The suspicions were confirmed: technology doesn't necessarily make us smarter.
The researchers created a tool called the "Child Checklist" to measure speech development, based on the fulfillment of different goals that children should achieve during the first time of life. That was contrasted with the exposure time in front of mobile devices such as tablets and cell phones.
The figures are staggering. The study established that children spend a daily average of 28 minutes in front of the tablet or smartphone. In addition, 20 percent of 18-month-olds spend at least 30 minutes in front of the screens. That minimal daily exposure was associated with a 49% increase in speech delays.
The specialists noted that the children showed marked difficulties in transforming sounds into words, although they did not have deficiencies in body language and social interactions.
Questioning the role of technology
"It's a first step that requires replication and other analysis to examine the specific causes," said Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and senior author in charge of the study.
Experts say that these results help parents question the role of technology in the education and intellectual development of their children. The idea that “children learn from screens” is increasingly questioned, mainly in regards to children under 2 and a half years of age.
What to do?
Pediatric specialists recommend that parents "go back to the roots" and balance the use of the devices with activities of another type that enrich the development of speech, such as simply having a conversation - even if it is one way - and reading story books.
The study did not find differences if the type of content to which the children were exposed affected language development to a greater or lesser extent, nor did it analyze the influence of having parents present or not.