For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Silent Screens an unseen Threat to Toddler’s Speech Development

Probably we are running out of ideas to keep our toddlers busy and use electronic devices as babysitters,
03:00 AM Jul 10, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
silent screens an unseen threat to toddler’s speech development

Electronic devices have become omnipresent in today’s world of technological marvels, influencing every facet of existence. In the past, only people from the upper-middle-class economy would use electronic gadgets however , in the modern era, it is used by all demographic groups including kids. Technology has indeed made our lives easier and offer unparalleled connectivity and communication across the globe, but amid this digital revolution, concerns have surfaced about their possible effects, especially on toddler’s vulnerable developmental stages and there have been no proven positive benefits of electronic gadgets on them. Electronic gadgets and mobile phones have become the preferred toys and ‘tantrum pacifiers’ for toddlers that it’s no surprise to see them unlocking smartphones, operating apps, and hitting the right links on touch screen devices. Although a wide range of educational content and entertainment materials are accessible through these devices, there is ongoing debate and scrutiny to what extent they impact language development during the early period of development.

         Probably we are running out of ideas to keep our toddlers busy and use electronic devices as babysitters, it’s time to wake up, since the upshot of the device used has had a huge and significant impact on toddler’s overall development. No electronic device can replace the face-to-face interaction required for communication and moreover it is the most important and unique quality that humans possess. One critical part of child’s development is speech and language and first several years are important for them to acquire such skills. One measure of a child’s overall cognitive development is how well they speak. The golden period of toddlers’ speech development lasts from 9 to 24 months. They will always be able to communicate using the fundamental speech skills learned at this age and it will remain with them for life, since throughout this specific time their brain is rapidly and continuously developing. This is also the same age at which toddlers learn receptive language the most or is at its peak. Unfortunately, if a kid spends most of the day playing with technology, he will have little opportunity to engage or interact with his peers.

            Electronic gadgets inevitably have other negative impacts on toddlers like attention deficit problem, anxiety, increased aggressive behaviour, childhood depression, their normal eating habits get disrupted as they are so into the smartphones or visualising TV that they don’t eat properly which causes other related health issues. Children who spent more time on electronic devices are highly likely to have difficulty to express their thoughts and have problem in uttering words. Electronic gadgets steal the valuable time of your toddlers that could be spent learning by conversing and interacting with their family members.Language learning requires the use of facial expressions, voice intonation and taking in words but when a child is exposed to mobile phones, tabs, TVs, and other electronic gadgets they are not getting any of the interesting experiences from surroundings. It is the images on the screen what determine where their focus should be. This could hinder the ability of a child to read and filter information over time, while switching attention from one task to another. In such cases, child is not able to concentrate on a word to partially hamper language and social development. Increased screen time also increases lack of physical activity which makes them prone to obesity, cognitive delays and behavioural issues which in total affects their overall development. Statistics showed that the preschool children’s spending daily average screen time more than 2 h per day affected their speech development and language comprehension, although having no other pathological causes. COVID-19 further exacerbated the screen time by school closures and put a great deal of pressure on parents to find childcare which ultimately led to the overuse of electronic gadgets to keep them engaged. This not only affects their health but also there is a falloff in parent-child closeness. Speech language pathologists and paediatricians should take the responsibility to educate the parents about the negative outcomes of increased use of electronic devices.

            Some tips to avoid over screen time.

1.     Make them play outside and focus more on their communication.

2.     Parents should give extra time and care to kids.

3.     Playing rhymes and other educational toys may help.

4.     Involve them in artistic activities like painting, drawing.

5.     Intense therapy is necessary to divert them from electronic medias.

Gowher Nazir is a Speech Pathologist