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Ask A Speechie: My child loves watching YouTube and playing games on their iPad but how much time should a 4 year old be spending using technology?

April 26, 2019
Ask A Speechie: My child loves watching YouTube and playing games on their iPad but how much time should a 4 year old be spending using technology?

This month’s question is answered by Speech Pathologist Holly White

My child loves watching YouTube and playing games on their iPad but how much time should a 4 year old be spending using technology?

So many children love technology and it’s now an important part of everyday society. It allows us to connect to people and can be a very effective educational and motivational tool.

However, research completed by the American Academy of Paediatrics has found that there are some strict guidelines to follow. It is recommended that infants and toddlers younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using electronic devices, such as iPads or computers. Children between the ages of 2 to 5 years should be limited to less than 1 hour of screen time each day. This means adding up time on TV, videos, tablet, and smart phone to be less than one hour a day. Recent research has also indicated that every additional half hour of screen time over the recommended time increased the child’s risk for expressive language delays by 49 percent.

We know that children learn language from interacting with other people, from singing and reading and listening to music and playing with other people. Evidence suggests that long periods of screen time are connected with less activity, less outdoor play and less creative play. The implications of this are slower development of language, poor social skills development and an increased risk of being overweight. Screen time can also affect the development of the full range of eye movement.

The way you use technology can also be important. Passive screen time is when a child is alone using the technology and isn’t encouraged to respond to the characters in any way. Active screen time is where the child uses the device with a parent or caregiver and includes using the device to make a video or interact with characters from a show. Active screen time generates two-way communication and encourages language use, and is therefore a more beneficial way for a child to interact with technology.

We know with today’s busy lives it’s often necessary to give our children something to keep them entertained, so why not try giving them a book to read, something to draw with, a toy they don’t see very often or even a snack.

If you would like more information about communication milestones or ways to support your child’s development and evidence-based treatment approaches for children of different ages, please ring Melbourne Child Development and ask to speak to a Speech Pathologist.