Is Technology Bad for Toddlers?

Should Toddlers Use Smartphones 2Did you grow up without electronic devices? Your children won’t, and that could affect their development. In “Babies Don’t Need Smartphones”, columnist Judith L. Page explains how children’s increased use of technology could harm their hearing and impede their speech and social development. For parents whose older kids tune them out, what will the future hold when today’s toddlers become teenagers?

70% of American two-year-old’s use tablets!

Amazingly, nearly 70% of American two-year-old’s use tablets. Approximately 50% play with smartphones, and about 25% amuse themselves with electronics at the dinner table. For Page, a speech language pathologist, these numbers are alarming. “There is no substitute,” she writes, “to developing vocabulary and communication skills through organic conversations and real exchanges.”

Page’s concerns are supported by research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In Brain Mechanisms in Early Language Acquisition,

Patricia K. Kuhl of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington demonstrates that “early mastery of the phonetic units of language requires learning in a social context”. In other words, interacting with an app isn’t equivalent to a dinnertime conversation.

Human interaction is essential to developing strong relationships, too. Many adults spend their days with electronic devices, but they weren’t exposed to them as children. Today’s adults talked to their parents, teachers, and with one another. Is there too much screen time and too little face-to-face interaction for today’s kids?

It’s important to communicate, and it’s also necessary to listen and to hear. From the standpoint of hearing health, the electronic devices that children are using are also endangering their hearing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “unsafe listening” is a global problem. For young children especially, hearing loss can affect cognitive development and the development of language skills.

As a healthcare provider, what do you tell your parents of young children about technology? Parents want their kids to have every advantage in life, but is too much technology and less face-to-face communication bad for toddlers?

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