A new ASHA survey of U.S. parents finds significant percentages reporting technology use by very young children. Additionally, more than half of the parents surveyed report feeling concern that technology use could negatively affect their young children’s ability to communicate.
Conducted this past March, the survey polled 1,000 parents of children ages 0 to 8. Its release occurs during May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time for ASHA and its members to raise awareness of speech, language and hearing disorders—and spotlight the importance of communication health.
Although the fact that most children use “smart” technology today may not be surprising, just how early it begins may be. The survey results show that more than two-thirds of the respondents say their 2-year-olds are using tablets, more than half say they use smart phones, and one in four indicate their 2-year-olds are using some form of technology at the dinner table. All of this raises questions about how this tech use will affect children’s communication development.
Some findings from the survey:
- 55 percent of parents have some degree of concern that misuse of technology may be harming their children’s hearing, and 52 percent have concerns about speech and language skills.
- 52 percent say they are concerned that technology negatively affects the quality of their conversations with their children; 54 percent say they are concerned that they have fewer conversations with their children than they would like to because of technology.
- Parents recognize the potential hearing hazards of personal audio devices: 72 percent agree that loud noise from technology may lead to hearing loss in their children.
- 24 percent of 2-year-olds use technology at the dinner table. By age 8, that percentage nearly doubles to 45 percent.
- By age 6, 44 percent of kids would rather play a game on a technology device than read a book or be read to. By age 8, a majority would prefer that technology be present when spending time with a family member or friend.
- More than half of parents say they use technology to keep kids ages 0 to 3 entertained; nearly 50 percent of parents of children age 8 report they often rely on technology to prevent behavior problems and tantrums.
These results present an opportunity to deliver communication health messages nationally and in our circles of influences and local communities. Earlier this month, ASHA shared the survey results with media around the country via a satellite media tour, and will continue to spread the word this month through social media. ASHA also has created new resources with a technology theme for its Identify the Signs public education campaign.
Looking beyond Better Hearing and Speech Month, the summer presents an ideal time to continue to push out these messages. For instance, 55 percent of parents polled in the survey said their children age 8 or younger use technology during car trips. Members could present this statistic and note that this is an ideal time for a family to put the tech devices away and focus on communicating.
We hope members will find such information compelling and useful for building awareness of communication health; speech, language and hearing disorders; and the professionals—certified audiologists and speech-language pathologists—who are best educated and trained to address them.
Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, is ASHA 2015 president. She served as program director for Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Kentucky for 17 years and as chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences for 10 years. firstname.lastname@example.org