Recently a fellow SLP shared an article from the UK entitled Gadgets blamed for 70 per cent leap in child speech problems in just six years. It got a small dialogue started when I shared it on my Facebook page, with most commenters agreeing with the article.
What do you think?
Let me begin by being honest with you all: We own an iPad. And two iPhones, a MacBook Pro, a couple flat screens, a Blue ray player, and many DVDs. I am the first to admit that I spend too much time on the computer (but then again, at this time I am also using the computer to work so it is part of the job) and I love playing on Facebook on my phone.
I actually fought the smart phone craze for a while…but I also saw the may benefits of having one. I fought it because I got sick of seeing people constantly checking their email and such while around other people. And I told myself I wouldn’t do that.
But admittedly, I do sometimes.
Being transparent with you all and honest…I do think (and always have) that technology can definitely hinder speech and language development. And here is why. The time spent (for a child) on the iPad is….
- …time the child is not playing with his open ended toys
- …time not being spent having a back-and-forth conversation with his mother, father, or siblings.
- …time not being used to read books with mommy and daddy
- …time not being spent outside playing
- …time not spent exploring pretend play with peers
- …time not spent leaning how to share with peers
- …time not spent building towers with blocks and practicing motor and visual processing.
All of which are VERY important activities for the development of speech, language, social, and cognitive skills. But this isn’t just about iPads.
- The time a child watches a video on the way to the grocery store could have been used to play I Spy, 20 questions, or just used to have a discussion about current or upcoming events. All of which are fantastic speech, language, communication, problem solving, and critical thinking practice.
- The time spent playing video games could have been used to play an interactive board game with family….an activity that promotes family bonding, relationships, as well as speech, language, and cognitive skills.
- If a child watched TV all day long, he is missing opportunities to play with toys and play outside.
And it isn’t just the kids. When parents are busy on their computers, iPads, phones, or watching TV, that is time they are not spending interacting with their child. In fact, one recent study found “caregivers who were absorbed with typing and swiping on mobile devices during meals at fast-food restaurants spent less time paying attention to the child or children (ages 0 to 10) in their care and often reacted harshly to misbehavior or bids for attention.”
Basically…the time spent on the gadgets could be better used for play and human interaction.
But wait….is it REALLY the technology?
Ok ok…let’s be honest here. It isn’t the technology, per say, that is causing issues but really the lack of time we, as a society, is spending REALLY interacting with our children in meaningful ways. It is easy to blame the iPads, video games, and TV but in reality, it is the parents that control our children’s time with these gadgets. And it is the parents that are in control of their own time on the same devices. It is not the iPad people…it is our own parenting. It is our own time management skills…or lack there of.
Notice I say our. I am not immune to this. My personal issue (other than my own computer use) is my kid’s TV time. I’ll do great at limiting it for a while…and then a kid gets sick so we end up watching extra and them BOOM. I have to fix it and it is hard.
“But my kid knows the iPad inside and out and he is FINE! In fact he is advanced!”
And that is totally possible! I never said the iPad or other gadgets will ruin your kid. In fact, some TV shows are very educational! My kids LEARN from TV! And I hear there are some great apps out there too! But that doesn’t mean I should let him play with it all day.
And for children, some of the best interactions are play. PLAY. As in…get down on the floor and play with your kids. And read to them. yeah yeah…you can read them books on the iPad I suppose but READ. PLAY. SPEAK. INTERACT. LAUGH. MAKE EYE CONTACT.
Technology has a Time and Place
iPad’s are not the devil. A little TV will not damage your kid. Used in moderation, these gadgets and technology can be a great way to supplement education and can be a source of entertainment. Speech Pathologists use iPad’s in therapy for goodness sakes! There absolutely is a time and a place for technology. In no way do I think you should throw them all out and let me tell you the TV has saved me a few times from losing my mind.
And then there are times that technology is totally inappropriate as well. For example, an app cannot replace speech therapy. There are some AMAZING apps that can be used in therapy and in home practice, but an app cannot teach a child a skill…it can only allow them to practice that skill. A real person must first teach the skill.
Moderation is KEY: But How?
I already explained that I don’t think technology is the devil…but let’s admit that moderation is pretty important. And moderation can be really hard. Not only for your kids, but for yourself. If it was easy….no one would struggle with over eating, drinking, and other things that can be addicting.
When I found myself struggling with the amount of TV my kids watched a while back…I made us a visual TV Chart. You can see it (and download it for Free) HERE. They can watch 2-3 2o-25 minute shows a day max. That is just under/about an hour a day and since we only watch TV on demand, they are not exposed to commercials. Some days there is NO TV at all. And if we are sick? It could easily be much more. The chart helps us ALL know how much TV is being watched. **Update February 2014: Now that my kids are 5 and 3, they both have a great concept of numbers/counting. They each are allowed to pick one 20-25 minute show a day on days we watch TV (some days we watch none). This has worked very well for us!
Another thing we did, was when we were buying car two years ago, we made sure there were no DVD players in it. For me….I didn’t even want them in the car! No…I don’t think they are evil but I don’t see a point in having them on when you go for a 10 minute drive. And my family did a LOT of road trips as a kid and I never had one on the road…I read and played games, drew pictures and had actual conversations with my parents and I just wanted to not even be tempted with having them in my car.
As far as the iPad…we only have a few kids apps so that helps keep the time limited. Also…out of sight out of mind can be helpful.
What are your thoughts?
I want to hear from YOU now. What are your thoughts? How to you think technology effects the speech, language, and social skills of our little ones? Do you find yourself struggling with the use of technology in your home and if so, what methods do you use to limit it?
Looking for Help on How to Unplug?
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