HEALTH REPORT: Don’t let the baby play with the iPad


While iPads may be a modern marvel to keep a child occupied, a new study shows potentially detrimental effects that smart devices can have on babies’ developing brains.

The study, which will soon be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, claims that handheld screens used by children between ages six months and two years were more likely to experience speech delays.

According to CNN, the study involved 900 subjects and required parents to report to researchers how many minutes per day their child spent looking at screens at 18-months.

Researchers used an “infant toddler checklist” to assess each child’s language development and “whether the child uses sounds or words to get attention or help.  It looks at how the child puts words together, and how many words the child uses.

The results of the study are as follows:

  • Twenty percent of the children spent an average of 28 minutes a day viewing screens.
  • Every 30-minute increase in daily screen time was linked to a 49% increased risk of what the researchers call expressive speech delay (using sounds and words).
  • The study did not find any link between use of a handheld device and other areas of communication, such as gestures, body language, and social interaction.

An associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto validated that the study, albeit a preliminary analysis, suggested a link between handheld device use and communication delays in babies, though she insisted further research needs to be conducted in order to definitively state a direct correlation between screen time and speech delays.

It has also been proposed that research also needs to investigate what content the babies are watching, along with if the parent or caregiver is present while the child is using the device, said the professor.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended children under 18 months do not use screens (except video-chatting with family), citing noise and screen activity can be distracting for developing minds and can lead to a social disconnect with their parents. The agency has also recommended limited screen time for children between 18 to 24 months and suggests they watch only educational content with their parents.

The use of smart devices has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that roughly 40% of children under age 2 have used a mobile device, according to a 2013 study by Common Sense Media. Those numbers are on the rise as mobile devices continue to become a staple in most households.

“This is an important study in highlighting some of the potential risks associated with media use, and specifically handheld mobile devices,” said Michael Robb, research director for Common Sense Media. “What’s driving the effect is very important. The negative effects may be due to screen time replacing parent-child interaction (playing, reading, talking, singing, etc.) which are critical for healthy development.”

Letting a baby play on an iPad might lead to speech delays, a new study says


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