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Long Hours Watching Videos May Stunt Toddlers' Language Development
  • Posted February 22, 2024

Long Hours Watching Videos May Stunt Toddlers' Language Development

Television has been wryly referred to as the “electronic babysitter,” but a new study argues TV or other media could stunt a child's language development.

Children plopped in front of videos for hours on end tend to use phrases and sentences with fewer words, researchers reported recently in the journal Acta Paediatrica.

Unfortunately, the results also show that toddlers spend an average of nearly two hours a day watching videos.

That's double the amount of time from prior estimates gathered before the pandemic, researchers said.

“In those first couple years of life, language is one of the core components of development that we know media can impact,” said researcher Sarah Kucker, an assistant professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

However, this negative impact was blunted when videos were used for educational purposes, researchers found. Video chats with family members to foster social connections also mitigated the effect.

For the study, researchers surveyed 302 caregivers of children ages 17 to 30 months old, answering questions about their child's words, sentences and how much time they spend with different media each day.

The children's media use was compared to their vocabulary and the length of their utterances.

The results suggest that caregivers need to consider whether children are watching videos for learning or for fun, Kucker said.

Parents who use digital media to occupy children should consider limiting such exposure, or try to interact with kids while they're using it, Kucker added.

Future research from Kucker's team will focus on the types of videos children watch, how they use screens with others and how watching videos impacts language development.

More information

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more on activities to encourage speech and language development.

SOURCE: Southern Methodist University, news release, Feb. 20, 2024

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