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Seek help if your child has speaking problems

8 February 2019

New research shows that too much screen time spent on computers, mobile devices and television can affect a child’s ability to learn and speak properly.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Thursday Island-based Senior Speech Pathologist Tanya Govey said excessive screen time could affect the way a child’s brain worked.

She said excessive screen time:

  • Changed how imagination developed. Children who watch programs/pictures and have the stories given to them don’t get to explore or experiment and so don’t develop an imagination.
  • Delayed language development, up to 50 per cent in some cases. This means both understanding and talking are affected and will make learning more difficult.
  • Used fast-paced pictures and quick-changing screens all the time. If watched a lot, the brain gets used to it and thinks this is normal.

“Unfortunately, when children go to school they want the classroom to be as fast-paced as what they watch on screen and if it’s not they get bored and distracted, develop behaviours that disrupt others and don’t learn,’’ Ms Govey said.

“Screen time can also be addictive, so the child needs more and more screen time to feel good.

This is especially so with gaming.’’

Ms Govey said excessive screen time also could affect a child’s ability to speak.

“If a child has their head down watching a screen a lot, then they are not looking and listening to the other person and learning how to make the different sounds and learn new words,’’ she said.

“If children don’t yarn with others then they have fewer words.

“Children who spend too much time with their screen also are at a higher risk of putting on weight because of a lack of exercise, of developing poor sleep habits and harming their vision.

Ms Govey said, as a rule of thumb, children under two years old should have no screen time at all.

“From two years to four years, screen time should be limited to about 30 minutes a day and from the age of four upwards, no more than two hours a day.

“This includes time spent on computer, TV, tablets, iPads and smart phones.’’

Ms Govey said parents whose children were spending too much time on their screens should reduce the screen time gradually and definitely not use it as a baby-sitter.

“Encourage kids to play outside instead, read a book, play a board game with others, or just chat with parents or other adults and kids,’’ she said.

Ms Govey said although excessive screen time could be damaging, some screen time was good for developing hand and eye coordination and increasing the speed with which a child could scan their eyes across a body of information.

“As in all things, moderation in the use of screen time is vital,’’ she said.

Limit kids’ screen time and improve learning and talking, says Thursday Island Senior Speech Pathologist Tanya Govey.

Last updated: 1 March 2019