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Pathologist offers parents advice for managing family technology use

Published: May 13, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 13, 2016) -- With new data showing that a majority of speech-language pathologists say children’s preoccupation with today’s personal technology is qualitatively different from past generations’ distractions of choice, such as television – with greater potential for harm, Lyster Army Health Clinic’s speech-language pathologist program urges parents to implement some basic tech rules in their households to make time for verbal communication.

This advice is especially timely given that May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, said, Nancee Dixon, Educational and Developmental Intervention Services.

Among the top concerns for surveyed speech-language pathologists is that excessive technology use by children is replacing conversation and human interaction. The most basic of activities, such conversation and interaction is essential to children’s speech and language development as well as future academic and social success, Dixon said.

Unfortunately, the availability and convenience of tablets and other children-friendly devices may be supplanting time for talking, reading, and interactive play. This is where the concerns to communication development come into play, she added.

“A trip to the supermarket, downtime in a doctor’s waiting room, or a ride in the car are ideal times to point out new objects, ask your child questions and generally converse – all of which contribute to children’s speech and language development,” said Dixon. “It’s important that parents stay mindful of these learning opportunities and not allow tech time to encroach on such daily opportunities – tempting as it may be to keep a child occupied. Even if a child is playing an ‘educational’ game on a device, nothing replaces what is learned through person-to-person communication.”

Maintaining a realistic approach, a vast majority of speech-language pathologists (73 percent) said the solution to children’s tech overuse is to encourage parents to set reasonable parameters and model safe technology usage at home, she added. A small number (2 percent) advocate for tightly restricting children’s technology usage.

“We know that technology is here to stay, but consider when you can carve out some dedicated tech-free time each day,” Dixon added.

In addition to implementing basic tech measures, she asks parents, especially those of young children, to use May as a time to assess their children’s communication development and familiarize themselves with the signs of speech and language disorders. These are among the most common conditions young children experience, and they are highly treatable. However, it is important that parents not delay should they have concerns.

“Some parents may not take action about a speech delay until a child is 3 or older, even though they may have had concerns for a year or longer at that point,” Dixon said. “Any parents with a concern should seek an assessment from a speech-language pathologist right away for the best possible outcome.”

For more information about communication milestones, visit identifythesigns.org.

To set up an interview with EDIS for developmental issues, including communication from birth to age 3, and EDIS Child Find for ages 3-5, call the EDIS Clinic at Lyster AHC at 255-7237.

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