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Technology and Language Development: Encouraging Interaction with Shared Screen Time

Hearing and Speech

Your child’s brain is most receptive to learning language during the first years of life. This is a critical time for development, as he or she learns to communicate through positive social interactions and shared play with loved ones. A study by Chonchaiya & Pruksananonda in 2008 found that children who started watching TV before 12 months of age and who watched two hours or more of TV per day were six times more likely to have language delays.

Interactions between you and your child cannot be replaced by technology, which is why it’s important to continue socializing with your child even when screens are on. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a new policy statement, Media and Young Minds, providing guidelines for the use of screens with young children.

The updated AAP statement has expanded the recommendation from parameters on how much your child is watching to include recommendations on types of screen time, who else is watching and how they’re engaging with the child during screen time.

The AAP now suggests no screens for babies younger than 18 months, with the exception of live video chat. Instead, families should prioritize unplugged play and social interaction. For children 18 to 24 months whose parents want to introduce digital media, the AAP recommends the use of high-quality programming or apps only while accompanied by positive adult interaction. For children 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming, with as much co-viewing and discussion as possible.

Recommendations for language enrichment during shared screen time include:

  • Talk to your child about the show. Enrich the program by adding new vocabulary and information about what the characters are doing, seeing, and feeling.
  • Relate the show to personal experiences. For example, if a character on the show feels sad, talk to your child about a time he/she felt sad.
  • Ask your child questions about what they are seeing. For example, asking “what’s that?”, “what’s he doing?”, or “what do you think going to happen next?” allows the child to think critically about the content while enjoying it.
  • Get silly! Don’t be afraid to participate in the songs and movements with your child.

Instead of screen time, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends:

  • Teach your baby to imitate your actions. Show them how to clap their hands, throw kisses, and play finger games (like pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and itsy bitsy spider).
  • Narrate routines with your child. Talk through what you’re doing at bath time, mealtime, and out in the community. Use a variety of vocabulary words to talk about what you or your child are doing, seeing, and feeling.
  • Read to your child. Sometimes “reading” doesn’t even have to mean reading the words, but simply describing the pictures in the book. Encourage your child to name or point to pictures while reading.
  • Include your child in daily chores and activities such as cooking, cleaning, and putting things away. These activities can provide the opportunity to teach language concepts like in/out, on/off, empty/full, dirty/clean, big/small, first/next/last, and up/down.


Do you have concerns about your child’s language development? Talk to your pediatrician about a referral to Children’s Mercy Hearing and Speech. To learn more visit: bit.ly/CMHearingandSpeech.