Smart Screen Time, is it Wise for Toddlers?
Parenting 5 min read

Smart Screen Time, is it Wise for Toddlers?

We here at Speech Blubs get a lot of questions from concerned parents about whether it’s a good idea to use smart screens to help their young children learn.

Some parents go so far as to say that it’s not possible for screen time to help with learning, so why should we encourage them to “get lost in screens”?

Let’s hear what the experts have to say, and then you can make up your own minds.

1. American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) about Screen Time for Toddlers

“Today’s children grow up immersed in digital media, which has both positive and negative effects on healthy development. What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‛media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

The AAP recommends parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers. Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it’s critically important that this be high-quality programming:

Parents can set expectations and boundaries to make sure their children’s media experience is a positive one. The key is mindful use of media within a family.

American Academy for Pediatrics

For school-aged children and adolescents, the idea is to balance media use with other healthy behaviors.

Among the AAP recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health. 
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

2. World Health Organization (WHO) about Smart Screen Time

“As part of a larger report on the risks of physical inactivity and sleep deprivation for children under age 5, WHO recommends no solitary, sedentary screen time at all for infants up to age 2, and only an hour a day for children ages 2 to 5.”

Editor’s note: As always, children who use low- and high-tech augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) should continue to use them at all times – and in an interactive way.

3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) about Kids with Screens

“Teach passive versus active screen time. Passive screen time takes place when a child watches a show alone and isn’t encouraged to respond to the characters in any way. Active screen time includes using a device to make a video call or watching a show – or playing games – with a parent or caregiver who communicates with the child. Active screen time generates some two-way communication, encourages language use, and involves family members and friends.”

4. From certified speech-language pathologist Stacie Bennett

 “I worked as an early intervention therapist for seven years prior to my private practice setting, and I can tell you that the children whose parents are actively involved and participate move through therapy faster and see quicker results. These parents constantly asked me for progress notes and for things they could work on at home! It may seem overwhelming, but chances are, you are already doing some of the exercises that I’m going to talk about.”

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Parents work on speech skills with their children using the learning app

5. What Can You Do at Home?

Use These Ideas to Start Working on Speech at Home

  • Read to your child for 5-10 minutes before bed. Make sure you are pointing, having your child point to specific objects and asking questions. This reinforces their verbal output (expressive language), as well as what they are understanding (receptive language). 
  • Narrate your day to your child. Use simple, easy to understand language, and make sure you are modeling clear, concise speech. When you are cooking, talk about what you are doing (e.g. “mommy is stirring the soup”). When driving, you can say things like, “We just turned left.” 
  • Play games. Playing games is one of the most fun and interactive ways to engage in language. It works on social language, such as turn-taking, their ability to follow directions, and gives them plenty of chances to work on speech sounds.
  • Get together with family and friends. This gives other people in your child’s life the opportunity to engage and talk to them. These opportunities increase the carryover of skills that you and the therapist are working to achieve, allows your child to be exposed to different words and contexts, and lets you know how easily understood their speech is to other people. 
  • Create a 5-minute routine with Speech Blubs. The app uses a “kids teaching kids” approach to learning. Your child can imitate their peers and gets another exciting way to model the words. Download Speech Blubs and start practicing now!

Obviously, in every case mentioned here, they warn about possible negative effects of too much screen time, and say that you should limit it to one hour per day. They also emphasize that it’s important that kids’ screen time is not sedentary (“set and forget”) or inactive, that it should be under the supervision and with the participation of parents, and that parents should teach kids how to navigate the worldwide web. 

Speech Blubs, first of all, agrees, and recommends that parents who think their child may have speech issues to make an appointment with a speech therapist to get tested. Once tested, parents will have a directed homework list of types of activities. If you don’t have access to a speech therapist, then try our 7-day FREE TRIAL and fill out the speech therapist-approved screener to get personalized feedback about your child’s status. Please also re-check the section above for tips how to use it from a speech therapist.

Finally, please also note that we highly recommend guided, parent-led engagement with this app. It’s not meant to be given to your little one, and then forgotten. It will be so much more fun and effective if you’re having fun with your child. AND, we only recommend 10-15 minutes per day, which is well within the experts’ recommendations. 

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