A new survey of U.S. parents
commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) finds significant percentages reporting
technology use by very young children and more than half of the parents
surveyed have concerns about the potential negative impact of technology use on
the ability of the young to communicate.
Conducted this past March,
the survey [PDF] polled 1,000
parents of children ages 0–8. Its release today occurs during Better Hearing
& Speech Month, a national observance that raises awareness of speech,
language, and hearing disorders—and spotlights the importance of communication
Sixty-eight percent of surveyed
parents' 2-year-olds use tablets. Meanwhile, 59% use smartphones, and 44% use
video game consoles.
Such results raise questions
about the course of the development of the very young's capacities to
communicate, according to Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2015 ASHA president.
"The most rapid period of
brain development takes place before age 3," Dr. Page notes. "The primary way
young children learn is through verbal communication that technology simply
She adds: "Indeed, despite
advances in technology, it remains critical that children have sufficient opportunities
to develop their vocabulary and communication skills by listening, talking,
reading, and interacting with their parents and others, for which there is no
Survey respondents say technology
holds positive promise. However, majorities express concern about how its
misuse can harm communication health.
- 55% have some degree of
concern that misuse of technology may be harming their children's hearing; with
respect to speech and language skills, the figure is 52%.
- 52% say they are concerned
that technology negatively impacts the quality of their conversations with
their children; 54% say they are concerned that they have fewer conversations
with their children than they would like because of technology.
- Parents recognize the
potential hazard of personal audio devices to their children's hearing; 72% agree
that loud noise from technology may lead to hearing loss in their children.
Although it is encouraging
that a vast majority of surveyed parents report putting limits on their
children's technology use, the efficacy of those steps is questionable given other
For example, 24% of 2-year
olds use technology at the dinner table—a prime time for the kind of
interaction that fosters strong communication development. By age 8, that
percentage nearly doubles (45%).
Also, by age 6, 44% of kids
would rather play a game on a technology device than read a book or be read to.
By age 8, a majority would prefer that technology is present when spending time
with a family member or friend.
In addition, more than half of
parents surveyed say they use technology to keep kids ages 0–3 entertained;
nearly 50% of parents of children age 8 report they often rely on technology to
prevent behavior problems and tantrums.
ASHA President Page
encourages parents to set and enforce meaningful and healthy limits early and
understand that usage rules need to be adapted as children get older and acquire
new interests in technology.
Noting that the majority of
polled parents report that their kids use technology devices on car trips, Page
says the coming summer season presents unique opportunities to engage kids.
"If a long vacation drive is
in store, parents may want to use the time to converse with their children. Such
opportunities seem to be getting harder to come by in this busy world. It is
important to take advantage of every chance to build strong communication
Parents can learn more at http://IdentifyTheSigns.org.
About the American
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association
for 182,000 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and
hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel;
and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and
balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing
aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language
problems, including swallowing disorders. www.asha.org/