As handheld devices become more affordable and accessible than ever they have started to creep into the hands of young children.

What might seem like a wonderful tool to keep young children entertained it has now been condemned as causing an alarming effect.

New research suggests that young children aged 6 months to 2 years who use handheld devices may be at a higher risk of speech delays.

The findings were presented at the 2017 Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting. The researchers found that 20% of children’s parents reported a daily average of 28 minutes of handheld device time at the 18 month check-up.

This may not seem like a drastically long time but the study identified that the more handheld time reported the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech.

For each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time they found an astonishing 49% increase in the risk of expressive speech delays.

It is not uncommon these days to see young children watching TV on mobile phones or playing games.

While some educational apps may be beneficial, the type of content causing delays is still unknown.

During the ages of 0 – 2 years an infant’s brain triples in size and continues to grow rapidly until the age of 21. It is thought that over stimulation caused by technology is associated with health risks. Some of these may include attention deficit, cognitive, learning delays, and tantrums.

Raising Children suggest the following guidelines for screen and device time:

  •  Children under 18 months: No screen time other than video chatting
  •  18 months – 2 years: Can watch or use high-quality programs or apps only in the presence of an adult
  •  2 – 5 years: No more than one hour with adult supervision
  •  6 and older: Should have consistent limits

While the negative effects of handheld devices for young children are evident, being a busy parent and keeping young children happy and entertained can sometimes be difficult.


There are some simple strategies to try and limit the use of handheld devices and screen time:

1. Encourage imagination

Encourage your children to use their own imagination instead of watching television or playing with apps.

This can help boost their cognitive development and creative learning. Children actively engaged with their own imagination are rarely bored which can offer a much-needed break to busy parents.

2. Set a regular routine

If your child is over 2 years of age setting a regular routine with handheld devices can be beneficial.

It is important to set aside some time each day using the devices and supervising the child.

3. Remove screens and devices from the bedroom

Handheld devices in the bedroom can cause sleep related issues for young children (and adults).

Removing handheld devices from the bedroom will help foster a calming environment. This environment is meant solely for sleeping so it is important there isn’t a distraction.

4. If in doubt try an educational program

Educational programs are a great way to get your child thinking and learning. If they must use a handheld device try one of these programs and supervise them at all times.