More tech and less talk means children are losing their speech skills
IT'S a topic that keeps coming up - kids spending too much time in front of screens.
With research revealing about 80% of one-year-olds use technology regularly, with iPads and tablets increasingly becoming the birthday and Christmas gift of choice for children of this age, it's no wonder there is concern about the effects of excessive screen use, particularly in very young children.
I was having a conversation recently with a friend who is a speech therapist and I asked her if in her job working with school-aged children, she'd seen an increase in problems with oral language.
The response was an emphatic yes.
The next question was aimed at the reasons for this.
Is there a correlation between the increased use of digital technology and the rise in deficient speech skills?
It appears there are studies emerging showing more screen time means fewer opportunities for children to listen to and engage in oral language.
Children learn to talk and communicate through interactions with other people. It's been that way for thousands of years.
The first five years of life are in fact crucial for child's language development. It is when their brain is the most receptive to learning new language.
Screens cannot replace person-to-person interactions for teaching language or communication.
Engaging in oral language activities provides children with opportunities to build their vocabularies, learn rules of social interaction, develop non-verbal language skills and learn to store and use new words.
Sure some children learn to count, name things, or even read from screens and in the case of television and movies they hear words spoken but it doesn't give them an opportunity to practise using sounds and words themselves.
The recommendations that children under the age of two not spend any time with screens, and older children spend no more than one or two hours a day with any type of screen-based entertainment, are not made lightly.
It's easy to fall prey to the innovative appeal of modern gadgets and screen-based educational tools on offer.
But if what the experts are saying is true it's essential that we start talking with our kids more before spoken language is lost.