Screen Time Speech Delays = Higher Speech Therapy Fort Myers Demand
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics showed that when 1-year-olds are exposed to 4+ hours of screen time daily, they experience developmental delays in speech-language communication and problem-solving skills. In turn, we’re seeing even demand for those seeking speech therapy Fort Myers creep every higher.
We note this for two reasons (neither of which is to shame parents for screen time habits because – look, we get it!). But we think it’s important to note that:
- The more you can prioritize face-to-face interactions and communication over screen time – particularly with babies, toddlers, and very young children – the better.
- If you do suspect a delay in communication skills, it’s not in your child’s best interests to “wait and see.” For one thing, delaying early intervention services like speech therapy Fort Myers often only results in compounding the child’s speech-language deficits. But beyond that, with more kids than ever needing services, the waitlists are likely to be longer. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the faster you can secure the services that will help ensure your child thrives.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that the study didn’t expressly conclude that it was excess screen time that directly caused developmental delays among toddlers. In fact, the researchers theorized that the pattern probably had more to do with the fact that face-to-face time is so valuable for babies and young children, and those with 4+ hours of time on screens are getting less of that. This is why rather than admonishing anyone about their kids’ screen use, our Fort Myers speech therapists underscore the importance of time spent just talking, singing, and generally interacting with your child.
The Value of “Face Time” With Your Young Child
As pediatric speech therapists, we are closely familiar with the fact that early interactions play a critical foundational role in shaping a child’s communication skills, cognitive development, emotional understanding, and social engagement. Face-to-face interactions provide a rich and dynamic environment for learning and growth.
They are essential for fostering healthy development in the following ways:
- Language Acquisition: Babies and toddlers learn language primarily through exposure and interaction. Face-to-face interactions expose them to a variety of sounds, words, and intonations that form the building blocks of language. These interactions help children understand the rhythm, patterns, and meanings of spoken language.
- Communication Skills: Babies learn to communicate by watching and imitating the expressions, gestures, and vocalizations of their caregivers during face-to-face interactions. These interactions teach them the power of communication, turn-taking, and using nonverbal cues like eye contact and facial expressions.
- Social Engagement: Face-to-face interactions offer a safe and nurturing space for babies and toddlers to explore social interactions. They learn to recognize emotions, interpret facial expressions, and respond appropriately, laying the foundation for later social skills and emotional intelligence.
- Attachment and Bonding: The close physical proximity and focused attention during face-to-face interactions create a strong sense of attachment and bonding between the child and caregiver. This secure attachment forms the basis for healthy relationships and emotional well-being.
- Joint Attention: Face-to-face interactions encourage joint attention, where both the child and caregiver focus on the same object or activity. This helps children learn to share their experiences and interests with others, a critical skill for communication and social interaction.
- Problem-Solving and Cognitive Skills: Engaging in face-to-face interactions with caregivers exposes children to new experiences, objects, and challenges. This promotes cognitive development as children explore, problem-solve, and learn through guided exploration.
- Imitation and Play: Babies and toddlers love to imitate the actions, sounds, and expressions they see during face-to-face interactions. Through imitation, they learn about cause and effect, practice fine and gross motor skills, and engage in imaginative play.
- Language Modeling: Caregivers provide a rich linguistic environment during face-to-face interactions. They model correct grammar, expand on the child’s utterances, and introduce new words, helping children develop their vocabulary and language skills.
- Regulation of Emotions: Face-to-face interactions offer a platform for caregivers to respond to the child’s emotional cues, helping them learn to manage and regulate their emotions. The caregiver’s soothing presence and understanding help the child feel secure and understood.
- Building Confidence: Successful interactions where the child’s efforts are acknowledged and celebrated contribute to building their confidence and self-esteem. These positive experiences motivate children to engage and communicate further.
As speech therapists, we highly encourage caregivers to embrace face-to-face interactions as an invaluable tool for nurturing their child’s holistic development. Minimizing a child’s screen time will be an inevitable byproduct of this. By dedicating time to connect, engage, and communicate with their little ones, parents and caregivers provide a strong foundation for future language skills, social interactions, and overall well-being.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Screen Time at Age 1 Year and Communication and Problem-Solving Developmental Delay at 2 and 4 Years, Aug. 21, 2023, JAMA Pediatrics
More Blog Entries:
New Early Autism Testing May Help Kids Get ABA Therapy Sooner, April 1, 2023, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog