The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) conducted a survey of 1,000 parents of children ages 0-8 to determine children’s access to and use of technology. Technology is here to stay, so it is important to understand the potential impact to the speech-language development of children.
Sixty-eight percent of surveyed parents’ 2-year-olds use tablets, while 59% use smartphones, and 44% use video game consoles. The dinner table is prime time for social engagement, conversation, and language, yet technology is used at the dinner table 24% of 2-year olds. By age 8, that percentage nearly doubles to 45%.
While a child can certainly ask a smartphone a question and get a response, it is much more meaningful and engaging for them to have that same interaction with a person. When children participate in conversations, they learn vocabulary, read social cues, turn taking, listen and engage with others. The less time a child spends speaking and listening, the less time they have developing their speech and language skills.
“The most rapid period of brain development takes place before age 3,” notes Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2015 ASHA president. “The primary way young children learn is through verbal communication that technology simply cannot duplicate.”
By age 6, 44% of kids would rather play a game on a technology device than read a book or be read to. By age 8, a majority would prefer that technology is present when spending time with a family member or friend.
There is no app for technology-free time with a child.
Dr. Page states, “Indeed, despite advances in technology, it remains critical that children have sufficient opportunities to develop their vocabulary and communication skills by listening, talking, reading, and interacting with their parents and others, for which there is no substitute.”
So go ahead, turn off the tablets, silence the phones, and talk to and with your children. Visit The Family Dinner Project if you need to expand your questions and conversations beyond “How was your day?” Just remember to turn off the tech and talk.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC. As Lake Country’s mobile speech therapy practice, SpeechWorks helps children become confident communicators and empowers parents to be their child’s speech-language advocate. Reach her at 262-490-5653.