Smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices used by a majority of U.S. children today may pose a challenge to parents to help their children manage the time spent with, and influence of, this technology. As we head into the summer months, increased leisure time may lead to even greater use of technology. May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month, and the perfect time to evaluate your child’s technology use and establish, or recommit to, some healthy limits and habits.
While technology holds positive promise in many areas, it is important to know that it is not a replacement for human communication. The primary way young children learn is through verbal communication, — listening, talking, reading, and interacting with their parents and others. It is also an important part of family connections for children of all ages. According to a national survey of parents commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a majority of parents are concerned they have fewer conversations with their children than they would like because of technology and/or technology negatively impacts the quality of conversations with their children. Many children are using technology during prime communication opportunities, such as at the dinner table or while on long car trips.
This summer, consider setting aside some time for disconnecting. Tips are available through the American Speech/ Hearing Association (ASHA). The webpage includes tips for safe listening, which is especially important when children use devices with accompanying ear buds or headphones. Noise-induced hearing loss is a real possibility when children listen to these devices with the volume turned up high or for too long a period. Although noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, once it has occurred, it is irreversible. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion young people are at risk for hearing loss from noisy leisure activities, such as unsafe use of personal audio devices. Teach kids to turn the volume down to half and take listening breaks and model these habits yourself.
Communication is critical to learning and academic achievement. A child who is struggling in school may have an undiagnosed communication disorder. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech or hearing, please contact your local school to find out how they can help.
Early Intervention Counts
Parents, caregivers, and others are encouraged to educate themselves about the early warning signs of speech, language, and hearing disorders. The Identify the Signs campaign from ASHA is a great resource to start that education! The campaign stems from ASHA’s findings that a lack of awareness of the early warning signs is the leading barrier to early detection and treatment. Results of a recent survey of ASHA’s membership revealed that 45% of expert respondents reported lack of awareness as the number one barrier to early detection of communication disorders. Research has shown that early detection is critical to treating, and oftentimes reversing, communication disorders. Postponing treatment can result in isolation, poor development and lower academic or career performance. Several studies have shown significant increases in the number of U.S. children with disabilities associated with speech problems. Parents should never put off an assessment if they suspect a problem with their child’s speech or language. Let the experts help determine when a child’s communicative ability requires intervention. Let your pediatrician or local school know when you have a concern, and they can help get the proper assessments and treatments in place if necessary.