Children who watch too much TV are at "significantly higher" risk of language delay 6 years ago

Children who watch too much TV are at "significantly higher" risk of language delay

By the time your child is seven, he or she will have spent a year of their lives watching TV and using screen devices.

These shocking statistics are based on a new survey by Early Childhood Ireland into the attitudes of Irish parents when it comes to letting their children use electronic devices such as computers and smartphones.

The research found two out of three parents believed it was okay for a young child to use technology freely –  meaning that, statistically, by the age of seven, the average child would have spent a year of their life using screen devices and watching TV. A year. Of their much-too-short childhood. That is straight out scary.

The Early Childhood Ireland survey, carried out among 332 parents from across the nation earlier this year, found 20 per cent of those surveyed felt smart phones made parenting easier, while 72 per cent said the purpose of their child watching TV is relaxation. The research also showed that a whopping 85 per cent of Irish children under the age of 2 have been exposed to TV or DVDs.

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And while throwing our smartphones at the kids to keep them entertained while we shop, prepare dinner or drive the car certainly makes life easier for us parents, as the study showed, experts also warn that children under two who spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens had a “significantly higher chance” of suffering from language delays and poor sleeping habits.

Writing in an American Academy of Paediatrics scientific paper published in 2013, UK-based psychologist Dr Aric Sigman warned that children’s reliance on TV, computers and screen games was causing developmental damage and highlighted the importance of eye-to-eye interaction between parents and young children during the first few years of their life. This is echoed by recommendations by Early Childhood Ireland, who suggest that children under two years of age should not use screen devices at all and that children aged 2-5 years should not watch screens for more than one hour a day.

As with all other areas of parenting, mums and dads are now being urged to set a good example when it comes to screen time. This is especially important as the Christmas holidays draw near, and we will all be spending time at home together. Early Childhood Ireland recommends that parents turn off TVs and computers when not in use, establish “screen-free zones” in the home where there are no electronic devices and agree on set times for TV and computer use.

How often do YOU let YOUR kids watch electronic devices and TV? How often are YOU doing it in front of them? We are worried about these stats, and want parents to join in the conversation with us on Twitter at @Herfamilydotie