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How Much Screen Time for Your Late Talker?

Young children are exposed to screen time more and more. Whether it’s a TV show, iPad, or smart phone, it is not uncommon to see a toddler at a restaurant or waiting room in front of a screen. Parents often ask me for the best educational apps for their toddler who isn’t talking yet. What do I tell them? Apps are not the best language teacher- you are! This is especially true for children under 2 years of age, and children who are late to talk.

Now, I get it. You are busy, stressed and overworked. The task of teaching your toddler to talk sounds overwhelming, especially when you feel like you already don’t have enough hours in the day. What you’ll learn from my newsletter and website, is that there are lots simple strategies that you can incorporate into your daily routine to encourage language development.


In this post, you will learn how much screen time is recommended for toddlers, as well as suggestions for limiting screen time and using it appropriately.

How much screen time is recommended for toddlers?

Under 2 years: no screen time

2-5 years: maximum 1 hour per day of high-quality programming

– The American Academy of Paediatrics, 2016

Many parents are shocked to see these recommendations, as their child is exposed to screens for many hours of the day. A lot of people think they are doing something good for their child, and that the more TV their child watches, the more language they will learn.

Actually, research has shown that children learn language best through real life experiences with adults. Young children’s brains are not developed enough to learn meaningful information from a screen as well as they can by interacting with people. We want children to be exposed to a language rich environment, meaning they hear lots of language that is directed towards them during their daily routines such as eating, playing, bathing and dressing.

Many parents Facetime or Skype with family members that live far away. The good news is that it has been shown that young children are able to learn language through video chatting, although they need adult support to help them understand what they are seeing.

Parental Use: When discussing the use of children’s screen time, it is important for parents to also be aware of their own use of technology. Parent-child interaction is extremely important for toddler’s language development. As a parent, if you are constantly on your phone, or the TV is on in the background, you are less likely to talk, interact and play with your child, which can have a negative impact on language development.

5 Tips for Screen Time Use with Young Children

  1. Limit use of screens during every day routines. Daily routines like meal times are excellent opportunities for children to learn language. As a parent, you can easily model lots of language for them during this time (“There’s your spoon!” “Yummy yoghurt” “More berries?”). The more toddlers hear the words in their natural environment, the more they will understand and the closer they will get to imitating and using the words on their own. Meal time is also a great time for social interaction, and for them to develop skills to ask for what they want, make comments, and observe the world around them.
  2. Use high-quality programming. Just because a TV show or an app is marketed as educational, doesn’t mean it actually is beneficial for your child. Check out Common Sense Media or PBS for high quality media.
  3. Watch with your child. Children will get the most out of technology if you turn it into a conversation, helping them understand what they are watching, repeating it in simple language they can understand, and continuing learning after screen time through play and real life activities. This also applies to Facetiming with friends or relatives.
  4. Turn off the screens 1 hour before bed. Technology can impact a child’s ability to get a restful sleep.
  5. Avoid using screens as the only way to calm a child down. Children can become reliant on screen time to make them feel better if they are upset, which impacts their ability to regulate their own emotions.

Final Thoughts

If it’s not realistic to get within the recommended screen time guidelines, start small! Choose one time during the day when you turn off the TV or device. Maybe during breakfast, or before bed. Even small changes can make a big difference to your child’s language development.




Canadian Paediatric Society. (2017, November 27). Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world | Canadian Paediatric Society. Retrieved June 24, 2019, from

Radesky,, J., & Christakis, D. (2016, November 01). Media and Young Minds. Retrieved June 24, 2019, from


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