Meeting NewsPerspective

Handheld screen time increased risk of expressive speech delays in infants

Infants who are exposed to handheld screen time including smartphones, tablets and electronic games may be at higher risks for expressive speech delays, according to research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.

These findings support recent AAP recommendations that barring video chats parents should avoid use of screen media for children aged younger than 18 months.

“Handheld devices are everywhere these days,” Catherine Birken, MD, MSC, FRCPC, principal investigator and staff pediatrician and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, said in a press release. “While new pediatric 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.”

To examine the connection between communication issues and handheld screen time in children between the ages of 6 and 24 months (n = 1,077), the researchers conducted a parent survey during scheduled child health supervision visits between September 2011 and December 2015. All children included were part of the TARGet Kids! practice-based research network.

While communication concerns were measured with a validated questionnaire capable of detecting speech delays and other communication issues – also known as the Infant Toddler Checklist (ITC) – parents were asked to describe their child’s typical daily handheld screen time. Children considered to have expressive speech delays had ITC scores lower than the 10th percentile in the speech domain, and other concerns were noted if the child scored below the 10th percentile in symbolic, social or the total score of the ITC.

According to study results, although 69% of infants had no handheld screen time, daily handheld screen time was reported for 20% of infants, with average exposure time lasting 27.8 minutes. Researchers observed a significant connection between handheld screen time and expressive speech delay in children who had any screen time, a demographic with more pronounced speech concerns. Handheld screen time was not related to delays in any other area of communication in the entire group.

“This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay,” Birken said in the release. by Katherine Bortz.

Reference:

Ma J, et al. “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco, CA.

Disclosure: The researchers report no financial disclosures.

Infants who are exposed to handheld screen time including smartphones, tablets and electronic games may be at higher risks for expressive speech delays, according to research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.

These findings support recent AAP recommendations that barring video chats parents should avoid use of screen media for children aged younger than 18 months.

“Handheld devices are everywhere these days,” Catherine Birken, MD, MSC, FRCPC, principal investigator and staff pediatrician and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, said in a press release. “While new pediatric 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.”

To examine the connection between communication issues and handheld screen time in children between the ages of 6 and 24 months (n = 1,077), the researchers conducted a parent survey during scheduled child health supervision visits between September 2011 and December 2015. All children included were part of the TARGet Kids! practice-based research network.

While communication concerns were measured with a validated questionnaire capable of detecting speech delays and other communication issues – also known as the Infant Toddler Checklist (ITC) – parents were asked to describe their child’s typical daily handheld screen time. Children considered to have expressive speech delays had ITC scores lower than the 10th percentile in the speech domain, and other concerns were noted if the child scored below the 10th percentile in symbolic, social or the total score of the ITC.

According to study results, although 69% of infants had no handheld screen time, daily handheld screen time was reported for 20% of infants, with average exposure time lasting 27.8 minutes. Researchers observed a significant connection between handheld screen time and expressive speech delay in children who had any screen time, a demographic with more pronounced speech concerns. Handheld screen time was not related to delays in any other area of communication in the entire group.

“This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay,” Birken said in the release. by Katherine Bortz.

Reference:

Ma J, et al. “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco, CA.

Disclosure: The researchers report no financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Lynn F. Davidson

    Lynn F. Davidson

    In this study, Ma and colleagues reported that those infants who had more hand-held screen time were at risk for expressive language delay. This study provides more evidence for the recent AAP recommendations regarding the importance both of avoiding screen media in infants aged less than 18 months, as well as the role of social interaction and non-screen interactive play in enhancing an infant’s development.

    • Lynn F. Davidson, MD, FAAP
    • Attending physician, Division of Academic General Pediatrics Children's Hospital at Montefiore

    Disclosures: Davidson reports no financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Suzy Tomopoulos

    Suzy Tomopoulos

    Among electronic screen time, there has been a recent explosion in the access and use of mobile media devices – such as smartphones and tablets – with mobile device use under the age of two years increasing from 10% in 2011 to 38% in 2013. This study is incredibly important because excessive electronic media has been shown to be associated with cognitive, language and behavioral delays. One explanation has been that mobile use interferes with parents and children talking, reading and playing with each other which impact child learning and development.

    According to the study, infants and toddlers with more difficult temperament – labeled by parents as fussier or crying more – or exhibiting more delays were more likely to be exposed to more electronic media; this is not surprising considering these children are more likely to be given a mobile device to keep them calm.

    This study supports recommendations from the AAP Media and Young Minds 2016 policy statement. Parents should not feel pressured to introduce media and pediatricians should continue to counsel families to avoid electronic media in children aged less than 18 to 24 months. At that time, parents who wish to introduce media should choose high-quality media that is watched together with the child, and avoid using media to calm or soothe the child.

    • Suzy Tomopoulos, MD
    • Assistant professor Department of pediatrics NYU Langone Medical Center

    Disclosures: Tomopoulos reports no financial disclosures.

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