Screen time

The research review examines the impact of screen time on children's language development. Recommendations stress context, individual factors, and content quality, emphasizing the need for empathetic communication with families regarding technology use.
January 18, 2024
Published on
January 18, 2024

Screen Time 

In our latest research review, we delve into the complex relationship between screen time and language development in children. As debates on this topic continue, we thought we would provide insights into what the research says, what recommendations exist, and how we can navigate this sometimes difficult discussion with families.

What the research says: The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement about early childhood and digital media in 2016. The guidelines, which many SLTs are likely familiar with, are: 

  1. < 18 months: no digital media apart from video chatting
  2. 18-24 months: for those wishing to introduce media, choose high-quality content and engage alongside the child
  3. 2+ years: limit to one hour per day, choosing high-quality content and co-viewing when possible
  4. No screens during meals or one hour before bedtime

While these recommendations are valuable, they are not set in stone, and there has, indeed, been much debate about best approaches for moderating screen time for children. 


  1. Context matters. Ask yourself, “in which situations is the child engaging other forms of media? Are there boundaries already in place? 
  2. The Child matters. Ask yourself, “What is the child learning from the screen time?” 
  3. Content Matters. Ask yourself, “What is the pace of the video or game that children are playing? Does it reflect normal, real-life interactions, or is it unrealistic?” 

How to discuss with families: 

No family is the same, and the approach that we take with each is going to vary greatly. Despite this, we can still always practice the following: 

  1. Have empathy when discussing screen time with families and respect their individual values. 
  2. Emphasise and communicate the importance of real-world learning in tandem with screen-time. It’s important for children to connect their virtual experiences with real-life ones. 
  3. Highlight the research whenever possible (e.g. this Newsletter!). Objective takes are great ways to approach difficult topics and can be a great resource for parents. 


Screens can provide a lot of value for children, especially within their speech and language development. While there are careful considerations SLTs should take when using or advising on screen usage, we must always remember to practice empathy and respect for families and their use of technology. 

For more information, see the short bibliography below. 

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