Are you concerned that your kids spend too much time on tablets, smartphones, or other devices? Do you have fewer conversations with your kids than you’d like because of technology distractions? Do you find yourself constantly asking your kids to lower the volume on devices because you can hear the music blaring through their earbuds or headphones?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are a typical parent in the digital age. These are struggles for most of us as technology increasingly becomes central to our lives and our children’s lives.
During May, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)—celebrates Better Hearing & Speech Month. Given that, we want to take this opportunity to remind you of the important roles that verbal communication and personal interaction—free from technology distractions—play in children’s academic and social development.
Kids today are using devices for hours every day—time that once was reserved for talking and reading, interactive and imaginative play, outdoor experiences, and other activities. Yet, the primary way young children develop their speech and language abilities is through verbal exchange—talking and reading with parents. This is a precursor for their own reading abilities and overall academic success. Children also learn from hands-on experiences. Educational apps can play a part, but they are in no way a replacement for what is learned through person-to-person communication. As we head into the summer months, when children no doubt will have more time to use devices, consider carving out some device-free time each day. You may be surprised by how little they (and you) miss it!
Another pressing issue related to technology use is hearing damage. Unfortunately, there has been a significant spike in hearing loss in young people in recent years. This coincides with the rise in popularity of mp3 players, tablets, and other devices. Even mild hearing loss can lead to reduced academic achievement (particularly in reading and math), poor self-concept, and feelings of social isolation, among other consequences—so, encourage your kids to keep the volume on their devices to half level and to take listening breaks. Hearing loss due to unsafe listening habits can be prevented, but once it occurs, it is irreversible. Teach (and model yourself) these good habits early.
Speech, language, and hearing disorders are among the most common disorders in school-aged children. Communication disorders are also treatable and some can even be prevented if identified early. For more information about communication disorders, visit www.asha.org.
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