New research reveals scary link between screen time and speech delays for babies

In today's world, families can sit down for a meal together, without ever exchanging a word. Friends can go out to eat together, without ever making eye contact. Instead of coloring books and Legos, parents lug around iPads to entertain their kids, while they sit across from one another, texting.

It seems like technology is unescapable. Kids, younger and younger, have greater access to technology -- they're growing up with digital watches, with televisions glued to the front of their car seats. But, doctors are warning that this increased 'screen time' can result in grave implications for your child's health.

The study, presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, revealed some frightening insight for parents, teachers and health professionals worldwide. Researchers found that the more time a child aged 6 months to 2 years spends on a "device" like iPads and smartphones, the more likely they were to encounter speech delays.

Scientists tracked the amount of time nearly 900 children spent on these devices every day. Then, they assessed the childrens' language development and how they communicated -- whether it was with sounds, words and so on -- at 18 months.

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It's being hailed as one of the first studies of its kind.

"I believe it's the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children. It's the first time that we've sort of shone a light on this potential issue, but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it's really a first look," said Toronto's Dr. Catherine Birken, according to CNN.

The findings were startling. Researchers found that a half-hour increase in "daily screen time" is associated to an almost 50% increased risk of "expressive speech delay".

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that playtime should be monitored and "unplugged" for infants and toddlers. For kids aged 18 months, "some media can have educational value", but not all of it. And for children 2-5, screen time should be limited to only 1 hour a day, all of which should be dedicated to "high-quality programs."

While doctors agree more research is required on the link, the study succeeds in bringing to light the implications of technology on those as young as babies.

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