Screen Time For Kids With Hearing Loss

Jane Madell
September 4, 2018

There has been discussion about how much screen time is reasonable for children. When my children were growing up it was less of a problem. The only “screen” was the TV and somehow, even then, I knew that we had to limit time. They were allowed one hour a day. When they were little it was only Sesame Street. As they got older they got to choose what to watch in their hour. My son was very sneaky. He would lie on the floor in the dining room near the entry to the living room where the TV was and pretend to do homework while my daughter watched her hour of TV.


Things are more complicated now. There are so many hand held devices that we all depend on and use constantly. There are two issues which cause problems for all children and especially for children with hearing loss and other language issues. First, adults caring for children seem to spend less time talking with the child and more time on devices.


As I walk down the street I almost never see adults talking with children in strollers – they are either talking or texting on their devices. So the first problem is significantly less language input. VERY BAD!!!


The second problem is time the children spend personally connected to devices. We have all seen little ones in strollers watching something on an iPhone or iPad. Again, this means that on one is talking with them. But there is an additional problem. A study by the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto reported that at the 18 month well baby checkup parents reported that the children had a daily average handheld device use of 28 minutes. The researchers used a screening tool for language delay and reported that for each 30 minute increase in handheld screen time translated into a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay.


In a study by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reported that Audiologists and speech-language pathologists were concerned about screen time and it effect of reduced opportunities for social interaction, delayed speech or language development, and academic problems. Only 3 % of professionals surveyed had no concern about screen time.


Limiting Screen Time


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time be discouraged for children less than 18 months. I would say that is a minimum recommendations. We should be spending as much time as possible talking with our children. I do understand that watching a video is a great babysitting tool. We can be sure where the children are and that they are safe while we do what we need to do. But we need to figure out a way to reduce screen time and increase face to face time. We need to absolutely have limits. I absolutely believe that we should have almost no screen time below age two and then limit it to no more than one hour with the rest of the child’s life having face to face communication.


Face to face communication – talking – is especially critical for children with hearing loss who need more exposure to learn and who do not have as much access to overhearing or incidental learning which children with typical hearing have. And let’s remember that 90% of what children learn they learn by overhearing. So let’s turn everything off and talk talk talk to our kids. And for kids with hearing loss? Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk. And listen.


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  1. I been struggling with these studies. Most of my child’s (now 2) screen time is educational. One day he was watching sesame street at age 1. They taught how to swing a bat and he was imitating that action. He surely wouldn’t have learned that from me at age 1. He also listens to many songs on youtube including Twinkle twinkle little start (English and Spanish) and now sings both (again he wouldn’t have learned the Spanish version as well from me). He also listens to his ABC. I can only sing the ABC’s about 10 times before I say no more. Where as screen time can pick up the slack. I admit his screen time is still limited but it’s about 2 hours throughout the day.
    I think they should specify (if there is) a difference between lazy screen time (non-educational) and educational screen time). I personally think that because most of my child’s screen time is educational it assist with his expressive vocabulary when he does communicate with us. For example, When he’s playing with his toy trains he enjoys telling us that he’s going on a mission with Bingo and Rolly to save Hissy on the train tracks. Hissy is stuck on the train tracks and needs to be saved (Show puppy dog pals). Again that came from screen time and I doubt he would’ve strung that many words in a sentence. And of course since he does interact with us, we’re able to repeat and “correct” his sentence structure.
    Also, along with educational versus non-educational screen time. I wonder if there’s a difference between children watching tv by themselves versus watching with parents. Taking the example above, I would have no clue what my son was talking about if I wasn’t watching the tv show with him. Since we spend a majority of screen time together that helps us understand what he’s referencing to and again to help with his expressive language.

    That comment of others judging families who are out for walks and their kid is on the phone was also bothersome. How do they know the family wasn’t out for 5-10mins already talking and after that the kid was fussy so they gave them the phone. What if the kid is holding the phone listening to youtube songs and the family is singing along (I can sing even if I’m on my phone looking at whatever).

    Screen time isn’t automatically a bad thing and not all opportunities are missed just because everyone is looking at their screens. Screen time could be break time. Screen time could be educational time. Screen time could be togetherness time.

    Just some thoughts.

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