Apps, Babies and Speech

Down our way there has been a lot of press lately about the growing concern Speech-Language Pathologists have regarding the increased use of tablets and apps with babies and toddlers, and the impact this may be having on speech and language development.

So, we’d like to start a bit of discussion by giving you our current thoughts on the subject, beginning with a quick summary:

  • 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.
  • There is nothing an app can teach a baby or toddler, that can’t be better taught through play.
  • There are crucial skills (not only speech and language but many others) that can only be learned through ‘real-life’ interaction and physical involvement in an activity.
  • Parents provide the meaning and functional learning for children – playing alone on a tablet may be engaging for the child but it most cases it will not be meaningful without an adult’s input, and some ‘real-world’ knowledge.
  • Apps can have a place in the education of older children (3 years plus)

Since screens were invented, parents have been warned about overuse and the effect on children’s development and health.  In recent years the presence of screen technology in our lives has increased dramatically – it has become more user friendly, more interesting to look at, and, critically, more portable.  It was easier to monitor and limit use of the lounge room TV and desktop computer – all you had to do was leave the house!  Now we can have our screens with us all the time, if we choose, and our children are growing up with visual entertainment on hand for any moment they are ‘bored’ or we want them to stay quiet.

As a result, parents will often ask us about the benefits or otherwise in using apps that are specifically developed for babies and toddlers.   When we hear about young children and apps, our first reaction (courtesy of the Speech Pathologist in us) is a resounding “NO!” Then, we have to admit, the mothers in us whisper quietly “a little bit can’t hurt, can it?”  The dilemma of the modern parent is how to manage their child’s screen use.  When do you start?  How much is ok?  What content should they use?

Stay tuned for next week Part 2 Apps and Babies..