Smartphone, tablet use may up speech delay in infants

The more time your toddler spends using smartphones, tablets or other screen devices, the more he or she is likely to begin talking later, researchers have warned. The study showed that for each 30-minute increase in hand-held screen time, there was a 49 per cent increased risk of expressive speech delay. “Hand-held devices are everywhere these days,” said Catherine Birken, paediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Ontario, Canada. “While new paediatric 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 hand-held screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay,” Birken added. However, there was no apparent link between hand-held device screen time and other communications delays, such as social interactions, body language or gestures, the researchers said. The findings were presented at the 2017 Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. For the study, the team included 894 children between ages 6 months and 2 years. According to their parents, 20 per cent of the children had daily average hand-held device use of 28 minutes. The results also support a recent policy recommendation by the American Academy of Paediatrics to discourage any type of screen media in children younger than 18 months, Birken said.

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