Apps, Babies and Speech Part 2

At the end of part 1 we pondered the dilemma of the modern parent-

How do I manage my child’s screen use?

When do I start?

How much is ok?

What content should my child use?


In the case of screen use, the well-documented professional opinion is “not for children under 2” and in terms of speech and language development this is a rule to try and live by.  We say ‘try’ because, as parents, we know that screens can sometimes save your sanity, and the importance of that is not to be ignored!  We’re also aware that they’re a part of life, and they need to be managed in the best possible way.   For children over 3, screen time of no more than 2 hours is the recommended daily allowance.

Our own anecdotal evidence has shown that overuse of devices with babies and toddlers can mean they have less ‘play and talk’ time with a parent/adult, with the following results:

  1. The child’s talking can be delayed (i.e. their rate of learning to talk is slower than normal), or
  2. Their talking develops in a different way to normal, with more ‘rote’ learning, and use of learned phrases, rather than appropriate, spontaneous use of words and phrases.

Where ‘app time’ takes the place of interactive ‘play and talk’ time, the effects on a child’s speech and language development can be significant.

One of the many things that concerns us about apps is the way they are marketed, and some of the claims made by the producers of these products.  Using an app with your baby or toddler is personal choice, but it is important to be realistic when you make that choice – you are providing your child with visually stimulating, engaging entertainment , and when used sensibly (only for a very short time), that’s ok.  But be aware!  In our opinion, the useful, functional learning will be limited – especially when your child is using the app on their own.

Playing with your baby or toddler using an app may be a little better.  Interacting and talking about what is happening will help your child make more sense of the images on the screen and increase their learning…but it is still 2D learning, when 3D interaction with the real world is required! Consolidating real life learning with some adult-child play using a related app is better still.  If you and your child have been playing together with your plastic farm animals, then playing together with an app about farm animals may be a nice way to extend your play session.

Basically, there is nothing an app can teach a baby or toddler, that can’t be better taught through play, and physical interaction with the environment.

As with most things, it all comes down to balance.  If you (or another adult) are:

  1. spending good quality play time with your baby or toddler on a daily basis, and
  2. have introduced the app to your child by playing it, and talking about it, with them,

then devices can give you a bit of breathing space and a change of pace.  But monitoring the amount of time is important – it’s easy to lose track of how long your child spends doing these activities over the day.

The above is our take on using apps with babies and toddlers, but we are interested in your thoughts.  Please comment and share any ideas you have.  We’d also love to hear the types of strategies people have for monitoring and regulating their child’s screen use.

Interesting reading: