Children’s language development is influenced by the habits of adults

Children’s language development is influenced by the habits of adults

Young children depend on contact to develop their language - it is not enough for them to hear many words. The focus on the telephone or computer takes the attention of the child.

It is not the screen time or modern technology itself that is the problem but how it is used, according to researchers at Linköping University.

Maximum one hour screen time 

Children under five are negatively affected by too much screen time, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which now comes with new guidelines for how much - or rather little - screen time children under five years should have. How the new recommendations go along with the government's requirement for digital competence in preschool is another question.
No screen time at all for children under two years and a maximum of one hour for children under five years. More physical activity and play, less sedentary - and a recommended number of hours of minimum sleep - of good quality. That is a bit of what is read in the World Health Organization WHO's new guidelines for children under five.

The language of children whose parents often use digital media is developing more slowly shows a research project at the Baby and Children’s Lab at Linköping University. The researchers have looked at how parents use technology with their children and how the use of technology affects children’s language development, cognitive development, and memory. The three-year study began when the children were nine months old and have followed them ever since.

Digital use interferes with the interaction The

issue of screen time is widely debated, but Deputy Professor Anett Sundqvist and her research colleagues instead look at “technoference”. The word is a composite of English ‘technology’ and ‘interference’, technology and intervention and refers to how digital media interferes with communication between the child and the parent.

The parent’s attention and presence are of great importance for the child’s language development, and the most important for the child’s language development is the number of back and forth interactions with the parent.

“Language development is not about how many words the child hears, in which case you could only have the TV on in the background at home,” says Anett Sundqvist in a press release from Linköping University.

Difference between book and mobile use

It is not digital media itself that is the problem, but how to use it according to the researchers. A book and a mobile phone are used in different ways. When you read a book for a child, you do it by pointing, explaining, and discussing. The mobile could be used in the same way, says Anett Sundqvist, although this is rarely the case. Since the child can use the mobile phone himself, it does not receive the support and attention it needs to learn.

Inform the child what you are doing

Abstaining from using the cellphone while with the child can be difficult. A better way for the child would be to explain what you do. According to Anett Sundqvist, it is good to make mobile use more transparent for the children. This can be done by talking loudly and explaining what you are doing, for example, paying a bill. In this way, you give the child an insight into what you are doing. It can also have the consequence that you become more aware of how often you use your mobile phone.

Criticism is interpreted as hostile to technology Anyone

who criticizes digital media can be perceived as hostile to technology and to pay attention to the negative impact of digital media on children is often called technology panic. Still, research shows that the use of digital media has this kind of consequence. Although digital media is again eating something new, there is now a greater awareness of them, and Anett Sundqvist and her colleagues hope that we are moving towards a trend where parents are more restrictive in their use.

Children have difficulty learning from a screen

The new curriculum for preschool says that preschool should use digital media. An unthinkable decision, according to Anett Sundqvist, who believes that it is not digital media per se, but how to make use of what is important. Young children have a much harder time learning from a screen, as it is difficult for them to translate what they see on the screen into reality.

If the preschool’s job is to promote the child to learn things, then it is foolish to spend too much time with something harder for children to learn through.

The research group is now seeking funds to continue to follow the children. They want to investigate the use of digital media has for the consequences when children start school.

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