Too much tech harms child development – study

Too much tech harms child development – study

As hundreds of educators, technology providers and thought leaders prepare to converge on Sydney next week for the 2017 EduTech conference, a new report has warned that digital devices may be doing children more harm than good.

The study, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), surveyed 3,000 ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists in the US about their observations on the impact of technology on children’s communication.

A massive 70% of those polled indicated a communication “time bomb” of diminished speech, language and hearing abilities was inevitable without the widespread adoption of safer – and reduced – technology usage.

According to a report by the American Academy of Paediatrics, today’s children spend a staggering average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including phones, computers and other electronic devices.

However, the latest ASHA study found that 46% of millennial parents are willing to change their own personal tech device habits to be a better tech role model for their families. Just 22% of older parents said the same.

Dr Beth McIntosh, executive director at Savannah Speech and Hearing Center, told Savannah Morning News the problem is that not enough is known about the “full ramifications of such overwhelming usage of passive screen time”.


“The difference in older generations and our children’s generation is that older folks have had the benefit of living in the pre-digital world, where imaginations took you to faraway places instead of experiencing them in the palm of your hand,” she said.


Dr McIntosh said concerns about this trend have led to a new collaboration between the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Marcus Autism Center, the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, First Lady Sandra Deal and a variety of other partners launched a new initiative called “Talk With Me Baby.”


The initiative, now in development, has a clear, singular goal: encourage increased language development by encouraging parents and guardians to talk more with their babies.


“Trust me, I’m a parent too, and I understand the value of pacifying your child to buy you some time,” Dr McIntosh said.


“However, a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and fundamental learning experiences like parent and child conversations are critical to foster advanced speech and language development and their long-term love of learning.”


Dr McIntosh said that by allowing a young child to predominately learn through smartphones or tablets, they to disengage from human interaction,


“This will certainly negatively impact their social, emotional, physical and linguistic development,” she warned.


Research has shown that spontaneous and informal conversations with young children can play a crucial role in school readiness and often leads to a more sophisticated vocabulary and better reading comprehension.


“Let’s all do our youngest learners a favour and consider establishing screen-free zones [and times] in your house and instead enjoy shared experiences with your children that support their learning and development,” she said.