Research continues to accumulate regarding the influence of technology/screen usage on infants and children, and unfortunately, it often shows an adverse impact on language development and relationship skills.
Julia Ma at the University of Toronto evaluated the use of screen time in children younger than 2 years of age. Parents of nine hundred children seen for their 18 month old well visit were questioned regarding mobile media use and also completed a screening tool for language development. One in 5 of the toddlers had daily use of handheld screens with an average time of almost 30 minutes. (Ma J, et al. “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” Presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, San Francisco)
Researchers found a significant connection between the amount of handheld screen time and expressive speech delay.
A UCLA study of middle school adolescents evaluated their ability to interpret facial expressions before and after they went to a 5 day nature camp without cell phone use. According to the authors, “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues—losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people—is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.” (Uhis YT, Michikyan M, et al. Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior. 2014; 39:387-392).
After just five days without screen time, these adolescents improved in their ability to correctly interpret other people’s emotions – both in pictures and videos.
Screen time also influences how parents interact with their children. An online survey of 6000 children and parents revealed that 54% of children felt their parents spent too much time on their smart phones and 32% felt unimportant when parents were using their phones. (AVG Digital Diaries, 2015, http://www.avg.com/digitaldiaries/homepage#leftnavcontent-006992.)
From infancy to adolescence to parents, the research is accumulating that screen time interferes with language development and social skills that are necessary for building and maintaining relationships. We hope the following pages on our website will remind you of some simple strategies to help your children develop those important skills.