Babies as young as six-months of age (or even younger) are exposed to and are using handheld electronic devices. It’s almost commonplace. One newly discovered detriment is that letting a baby or toddler use a device may lead to delayed speech.

Expressive Language Delay

There are a myriad of reasons why a child may experience expressive language delay. This form of communication is different than social interaction. He/she has normal relationships. Body language and gestures can all be on par with age-appropriate development. The child understands and thinks clearly.
Expressive language delay is when the child struggles with communicating effectively. He/she has difficulty finding words to communicate specific thoughts or needs. The child’s ability to convey information or feelings can be compromised. It can be frustrating for the child as well as the adult.
A new study shows that there is a link between babies and toddlers using electronic devices and delays in expressive talking.

The Study

This study out of Canada is the first of its kind. There hasn’t been researched data to-date, showing a link between a toddler’s use of a Smartphone and speech development. Dr. Catherine Birken, the staff pediatrician at a hospital in Toronto, led the study.
The research included data from over 850 babies from the ages of 6-months to 2-years old. Twenty percent of the children used either: Smartphones, electronic games, or tablets at their 18-month old check-up. The longer time the child spent on the device, the greater risk for expressive speech delay was shown.
In fact, the researchers claimed that with each 30-minute increase of electronic viewing time, there was almost a 50% increase of risk of delayed speech.


Pediatricians have been suggesting limiting or avoiding electronic-device use for children and toddlers for a long while. The American Academy of Family Physicians has updated its strong suggestion to avoid all hand-held screens for kids under 18-months old. The only electronic-based time the AAFP condones for toddlers or infants is screen chatting.
Here is the concern: Media use can displace essential developmental activity. Activities such as physical play, hands-on exploration, and one-on-one interaction are integral to proper and desirable growth. All of the above are critical to learning. If screens are interfering with the natural course of development, it follows suit that delays in development (such as speech) may occur.
Of course, there are exceptions where electronic devices can help toddlers—especially those with physical or cognitive disabilities. This particular study did not take into account special needs babies.
The other caveat about this study is that it didn’t prove a “direct” cause and effect. However, it cannot be denied that after analyzing the data, there was proof of delayed expressive language amongst those toddlers who had been using handheld electronic devices. Further studies, if pursued, may better exact the link.
If you are concerned about your toddler (or one you know), in as far as milestone speech development, you can always check with ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) for helpful guidelines.
Aside from “electronics” or hearing challenges, there are other possible reasons why your baby may have a speech delay. Some are: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Apraxia, Dysarthia, or cognitive limitations, amongst others. Please do not panic. Any scenario has a way to assist the child. Just because speech is currently delayed doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to make things “better” or eventually catch-up.
Thank you for reading to the end. Hopefully, if this article has spoken to you or someone you know, the information can be used to assist. For other helpful articles on best health and lifestyle for your family, check out GetThrive.