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Does Screen Time Cause Speech Delay?

Does Screen Time Cause Speech Delay?

A Must-Read Guide For Parents to Understand the Link Between Excessive Screen Time and Speech Delay in Children

Many factors contribute to the development of language in childhood. Every child is unique.

Yet, almost every speech therapist will tell you to not expose your child to the screen at least till they are about 3 years of age.

Now, many of you will immediately say that you were introduced to television when you were very young (younger than 3) and you turned out fine. The impact of a television screen is different from a mobile screen. While it is great that you turned out fine, it is not necessary that our children will too. The primary reason for this being the content that was consumed by us and the content our children are exposed to are vastly different.

Through this blog we will explore how modern screens are contributing to speech delays, by examining their negative impact on child development, physical development, and the unique challenges faced by babies and toddlers. 

Understanding Speech Delay

Speech delay refers to a situation where a child is not meeting the expected milestones for speech and language development within a certain age range. It’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace, and some variation in language development is normal. It is important to recognise the signs of a probable delay and seek help for the sake of your child’s long-term development.

You can read more about the signs of speech delay here.

Speech Delay Due to Screen Time

The development of speech and language in children is multifaceted. It is influenced by various factors, such as environmental, behavioral, and genetic triggers. Among these, the most seriously impacting trigger is the “screen”. Let’s explore this in depth.

The Effects of Screen Time on Child Development

While many will argue that screens are great educational tools, the opposite is also true. It can negatively impact overall child development. These negative effects of screen time include:

Reduced Verbal Communication

Screens are passive. It is essentially a one-sided communication tool that does not expect nor encourage the child to participate in two way communication. Instead, screens typically get the child to swipe and tap. Without verbal interaction, the child’s exposure to spoken language is seriously impacted. This can interfere with their language acquisition and communication skills.

Limited Social Interaction

Of course, there are times when we parents simply want to enjoy a delicious meal. So, we plonk a mobile phone or tablet in our child’s hands, or sit them in front of the TV. Now while this is alright occasionally, making this a regular practice limits the child’s interaction with their environment. You can always have your child sit with you at mealtime, talk about how you prepared the biryani (maybe your child could have helped you in dicing the veggies), share an anecdote about the first time you ate spaghetti, etc. Face-to-face communication is critical for language development. 

In older children, who are exposed to social media, limited social interaction can also expose them to cyberbullying, harassment, and many other negative online risks.

Inattention to Surrounding Environment

Parents and caregivers who use screen  time at meals should realize that the child is unable to understand hunger cues because they are hardly paying attention to what they’re eating. Children do not understand when they are full, and may continue to eat because they are absorbed in the content, and the parent is thinking their child is “eating well”.

Remember, eating to your appetite is eating well. 

Less Playtime

Play, especially free play, is an absolutely integral part of language development. It helps children experiment with words, express themselves with newly acquired vocabulary, and even engage in imaginative play/conversation. Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?

Delayed Speech

We have so many parents coming to us saying our child has learnt the alphabet, names of fruits, vegetables, and colours, and so on through the TV and are still not speaking sentences. Now let’s examine this.

If your child wants to eat a roti or chapati, what will they say?

“One yellow circle”

Is that enough for you to understand what they are saying/asking for?

What if they could say – 

“Mumma. Hungry. Give chapati.”

You will know exactly what your child wants.

How likely is your child to know the word “chapati” from Cocomelon or Peppa Pig?

But, if they hear it from you or in their environment, chances are they will pick it up and know exactly when to use the word too.

Sleep Issues

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to excessive screen time tend to be overstimulated and hyperactive. Their sleep gets disrupted because it is believed that they might be dreaming of whatever they saw on TV, only their dreams are bigger, louder, and brighter. Additionally, screens emit blue light which interferes with the secretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep.

Sedentary Lifestyle and Strain on the Eyes

Obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular ailments, headaches, dry eyes, nearsightedness, etc, are some of the most commonly found physical health issues most children with excessive screen time may experience. 

Effects of Screen Time on Babies

In addition to the above mentioned ramifications of screen time, here are a few harmful effects of screen time on babies:

Lack of Parent-Child Bonding

Did you know, you are the most important learning resource for your child in their formative years? And placing your child in front of the screen is detrimental to this beautiful bonding process. 

Negative Behaviors

Irritability, and inability to self-soothe/self-regulate are some of the most harmful behaviors resulting from screen time. Additionally, they impact the child’s overall development.

Unrealistic Expectations

As speech therapists we will always recommend books with realistic images and illustrations. A talking pig is a fantasy, something that should not exist in a baby’s world. Why, you ask? Because they are still learning about the world. Learning and absorbing. Shows such as “Peppa Pig” set are unrealistic and fantastical. They can interfere with the baby’s understanding of the real world.

“My Child is Already Exposed to the Screen. How Can I Lessen the Damage?”

Our first and best suggestion to you, especially if you have a child under 3 years of age, would be to go cold turkey! Completely do away with the screen. This may take time. You may have to deal with a lot of meltdowns and showdowns. But it can be done. Of course, you’ll need a strategy to back you up. Here are some things that you can try:

  • Take a break from work, anywhere from a week to 10 days off
  • Have an activity calendar – drawing, painting, colouring, sensory bins, nature walks, reading, dressing up as family members, etc.
  • Step out – a visit to the library, grocery store, zoo, park, etc.
  • Offer choices they will absolutely love – ice cream, colouring, etc.
  • Engage them in practical life activities – folding laundry, kitchen work, setting up the table, etc.

Here are some other strategies that can help if you don’t want to go cold turkey.

Balance Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided the following guidelines for screen time:

For Children Under 18 Months: No screen, except for video chatting.

For Children 18 to 24 Months: High-quality programming; sit with your child and help them understand what they are seeing.

For Children Aged 2 to 5 Years: ONE hour per day of high-quality programming. Sit with your child and help them understand what they are seeing.

For Children Aged 6 Years and Older: Establish consistent limits on the amount of time spent using media, this includes TV, phone, tablet, etc. Ensure that screen time doesn’t interfere with their sleep, physical activity, and other healthy behaviors.


Check and Filter the Content 

YouTube channels like Blippi, Ms. Rachel, Baby Einstein and more, although loved by toddlers and parents, can be really overstimulating for the child. 

Cocomelon, another much loved program, is overstimulating, way too bright, and has many fantastical and unrealistic elements.

Peppa Pig promotes bullying, gender stereotypes, and unhealthy habits. Peppa is often seen as being rude and disrespectful to her parents and friends. She also does not take “losing” very well and can be a spoilsport.

One of the most popular Indian TV shows “Motu Patlu” promotes body shaming and bullying.

Shows and programs that you can expose your child to (while making sure you are also sitting down with them) are:

  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
  • Bluey
  • Charlie and the Alphabet
  • Alphablocks
  • Super Why
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Jungle Book (Hindi)
  • National Geographic (for preschoolers and older children)

Bonus Tip: You can also show your child videos of book readings. You’ll find plenty of these on YouTube. 

*Caution: YouTube’s parental controls are not always effective. There are several videos on the platform that show sexual content featuring children’s favourite cartoon characters.


Set Clear Limits

Keep a timer or alarm that rings when the stipulated screen time is over. You can draw up a calendar or TV schedule for preschoolers (4 year+) and encourage them to adhere to the timings.


Keep your phone, laptop, tablet, and/or e-reader away when you’re with your child. Watch TV once they’ve gone to bed. This also tells them that you are being involved and want to play with them.

“This room is screen free!”

Mark a room/area in your house which is a no-screen zone.

Make Time for Outdoor Play

Outdoor play has umpteen health benefits, and also gives children opportunities for social interactions and explorations.

Pretend Play

One of the most loved activities of toddlers and older children, pretend play is a great way to spark the imagination and conversation. 

School Policy

If your child goes to a daycare/playgroup/nursery/school, be sure to understand their screen time policy. 

The interplay between your little one’s overall development and their exposure to screens is complex. Parents and caregivers must recognize the signs of screen time addiction and immediately set out to course correct by implementing proactive strategies.

Having said the above, it is also important to not demonize screen time. If used properly, screens can be powerful educational tools.

If you’re worried about your little one not meeting their speech milestones, we urge you to consult a speech therapist today. You can reach out to our team of expert speech and language therapists at our centers in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

WhatsApp +91 89048 42087

Call +91 78159 64668 (Hyderabad) | +91 82299 99888 (Bangalore)



Does too much screen time cause speech delay?

While there’s no conclusive evidence, research suggests a direct link between passive viewing of screens and speech delay in toddlers and older children.

How does excessive screen time affect child development?

Excessive screen time in children can lead to reduced social skills and attention span, delayed language acquisition, impaired cognitive development, and disrupted sleep patterns. It is also known to increase the risk of behavioral issues. It can cause a sedentary lifestyle, affecting physical health. Exposure to inappropriate content can influence behavior. 

Can gadgets cause speech delay?

Research indicates that prolonged screen time can limit real-world interactions crucial for language development. Passive viewing of screens leads to reduced verbal communication.

How do you reverse speech delay?

Reach out to our team of expert speech and language pathologists for a thorough evaluation. Speech therapy – which may include exercises to improve articulation, language skills, and communication – is critical to address/reverse speech delay. On your part as a parent, encourage consistent verbal interactions, read books aloud, and create a language-rich environment. Avoid baby babble! 

What deficiency causes speech delay?

One of the most unrecognized deficiencies that contribute to speech delay is the absence of a language-rich environment and social interaction. Talk to your child. Tell them how you feel. Ask them how they are feeling. Initiate verbal dialogue and have conversations around them.

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