How to Lower the Risk of a Speech Delay in Children

Truth bomb: handing over your tablet or phone might not be as innocuous as you think.

It could even increase your child’s risk of an expressive speech delay. Yikes!

 Speech delay in toddlers can be a mom's worst fear. How do we go about preventing a toddler speech delay, especially expressive speech delays? Reducing screen time is a big factor!

Did you have fancy gadgets and screens growing up?


You turned out okay, right?


Guess what.


So will your child.  Just because times have changed, and technology is smaller and more readily available does NOT mean that your child needs to be using every possible device there is for hours on end.


Screens are NOT necessary for children to learn. In fact, screen time might be doing more harm than good.

“for each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time, there was a 49 percent increased risk of expressive speech delay.”


Wait, what!?


So, could the ease of screens and their widespread use be causing our littles to have a harder time talking and verbally expressing themselves?

The study did not directly say that, BUT there does seem to be a correlation.


Why would this be the case? What if our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are watching educational shows or playing with educational apps?


Simply put, when children are being entertained by a screen or handheld device, they are not interacting with the people around them. There’s no back and forth of a conversation. They’re not asking questions or making requests and receiving answers. They’re just engrossed and consumed by the screen. And, that leaves very little time for practicing talking. When this is compounded over time, it really adds up.


Furthermore, when they are passively involved in watching a screen and all they have to do is push a button or tap, they’re not fully using their brains. Yes, they might be seeing letters, but they’re not physically forming or tracing, or writing letters. They’re not having someone do the activity with them and instead are left to fend for themselves. That also means they’re missing out on details, not just interaction and speaking practice. 


If their brains aren’t allowed to develop to the fullest extent possible, it makes sense that our littlest learners wouldn’t have a chance to even begin to know what to say (possibly leading to speech delays). While there is some thinking going on with pressing buttons on a screen, it’s limited and it’s not as in depth and doesn’t allow as much room for critical thinking and problem solving as learning in the real world does.  Hence, the likelihood that while we’re trying to do right by our children by providing them with educational “stuff,” we’re really dumbing it down for them and doing more harm than good.

Lower your child's risk of a speech delay

So, what can we do?

Go back to basics. Think about how your parents or grandparents spent their childhoods (or would have liked to spend their time). Probably outside playing, maybe helping out their parents, doing chores, playing sports with their friends, reading and playing games, swimming… those sorts of things. They were actively involved with other people, not off isolated by themselves with their faces buried in a screen. Slowly increase the amount of time you spend DOING stuff with your kids instead of being consumed by a screen until you find a balance that works for you.


Watch or actively DO screen time with your kids. If you’re watching a show WITH your child, you have a chance to actively engage in it too. You can talk about what’s going on and why or discuss it afterward. This also helps you see what your child understands and is interested in.


For more on this topic, check out my post about the  11 Dangers of Screen Time and What you Can do Instead.

Click here to read more about this study.

FREE activities for toddlers and preschoolers

If you’d like to go back to basics this summer, check out my Summer Survival Series. It’s great for adding in activities that you can do with your children, all summer long (no screens involved!). And, it’s FREE. 🙂

Toddler and Preschooler Summer Activities

Join the Summer Survival Series today!