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Does Screen Time Cause Speech Delay In Children?

Written by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Updated Sep 02, 2022

Does Screen Time Cause Speech Delay In Children?

For many parents, hearing their baby’s first word is a momentous event. Whether the first word is “mama” or “dada,” it means that the child is on their way to learn more words, which they can eventually string into phrases. But, sometimes, kids don’t begin talking at the same rate their peers do. And quite a few people believe that screen time has something to do with speech delay. 

From Babbling to Sentences: A Brief Guide to Your Child’s Speech Development

If you’re curious as to how your child’s speech typically develops, consider the ages below and the typical corresponding “talking” they are expected to be capable of:

  • 6 months age = babbles
  • 12 months age = can imitate simple words; 4-6 words vocabulary
  • 18 – 24 months = vocabulary of 50 words; can combine words
  • 2-3 years = 200-300 words vocabulary; can say 2-3 word sentences


Children are generally able to talk by 18-30 months. 

Possible Causes Of Speech Delay

If you suspect delayed speech in your child, below are the potential reasons:

  • Anatomic problems – Conditions like cleft, short frenulum, sinus cavity deviations, can cause speech delay. Ear diseases and those affecting hearing can also be a contributing factor. 
  • Neurologic problems – Mental Retardation/Global Developmental Delays, Childhood Apraxia, Autism Spectrum Disorders among others can cause delayed speech. 
  • Psychosocial Factors – Poverty, parents with low educational background, limited social exposure are also contributing factors. 
  • Genetics – family history, male sex

Can Screen Time Really Cause Speech Delay? 

Several studies noted the correlation of screen time and speech delays. To mention a few, you can check the following: 

  • Association of Screen time use and Language Devt… by Duch et al. Clinical Pediatrics Sage Journals. July 2013.1
  • Promoting Health and Devt in a Digital World… Canadian Pediatric Society. 2017.2
  • Television viewing associates with Language Devt… Chonchaiya et al. Acta Pediatrica. July 2008.3
  • Media and Young Minds… American Academy of Pediatrics. November 2016.4

Despite studies like these, please note that establishing a direct correlation might be tricky. 

The best answer should have the basic factors be considered — age and screen time quality

  • Age = No screen time for less than 2 years; Screen time of 1 hour or less per day for aged 2-5 years. (Canada Pediatric Society)
  • Quality = several shows were beneficial like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer (Media Psychology)
  • When to Seek Medical Help

    Each child develops differently. Still, it’s a good idea to know when to bring your child to the doctor regarding their speech development. Please seek medical help if:

    • The child reaches higher limit of age range without having the expected speech development
    • Other associated medical conditions appear – obesity, altered sleep, etc.
    • Other developmental aspects are associated like motor delay, cognition delay, social impairment, etc.

    How Parents Can Help

    Real, personal conversations and interactions with adults and other children are building blocks of communication development among children. This should be seen in school, home and all other environments for children. 

    Two crucial guidelines include:

    • Try to start conversations with the child as early as you can
    • As “cute” as it is, avoid baby talk.

    Also, parents may watch and share screentime with their children and re-teach the contents to their kids afterwards. The idea is to limit the time while increasing the quality of the screentime. 

    Key Takeaways

    Each child’s speech development is different. One child may speak earlier than the other and they are both healthy. Now, does screentime cause speech delay? There are studies seeing the connection, but it’s still tricky to establish a direct correlation. It’s still best to limit a child’s screen time while increasing its quality. Of course, don’t forget that supervision is crucial. Share screentime with children so that communication will still be present.

    Learn more about Parenting here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Updated Sep 02, 2022

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