The Link Between Your Phone Habits and Your Kids’ Language Development Skills

Research shows that parental phone usage can lead to impaired language development in kids. Keep reading to know its impact and ways to alter your phone habits.

By URLife Team
04 Jan 2024

How many times has it happened to you that you picked up a phone to check the notifications but ended up spending hours on social media? When we grab our phones, it's like entering a world that makes time fly. We end up spending more time than we should, caught up in all the stuff happening on the screen. 

Many studies conclude that the time you spend glued to your screen might impact and hamper how well your child learns to talk and develop their language skills. According to a 2019 study by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, smartphones distract parents from cultivating feelings of connection when spending time with their children. 


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All these little missed moments might not seem like much, but they all add up, affecting how your kids learn to talk. It’s more than a missed conversation; it’s a gap in awareness and sensitivity, influencing how you engage with your kids. As parents juggle digital distractions, the study uncovers the reality that these interruptions not only disrupt the moments we share with our children but also impede their social learning. The subtle cues they pick up on, like eye contact and attentiveness, are compromised, potentially impacting their language development in the long run

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How Do Parents Impact Language Development

Home is the first school of a child. They observe and pick things up from their surrounding environment. Parents play a crucial role in laying the groundwork for their child's speech and language skills, especially during the early stages of development. A 2018 study published in the journal Developmental Science shows that frequent communication between parents and infants contributes to stronger language abilities as children grow older.

Even using "parentese’’ (a higher-pitched tone often used with babies), helps develop language skills by encouraging interaction, although exposure to regular adult speech matters too.

However, when parents are distracted while using their phones, it creates a sense of disconnection with their children. This disconnection might lessen communication, impacting the child's language development and learning opportunities.


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Another 2014 study by the Boston University Medical Center analysed parent communication with their children during mealtime. The study found out that when parents are on their phones during meals, they talk 20 per cent less with their child. They also use 39 per cent fewer nonverbal cues, like facial expressions or eye contact. 

Moreover, when parents are disturbed by their gadgets (known as technoference), it alters and impacts communication with their children. As a result, kids might not learn important social skills like looking into someone’s eyes, paying attention, and responding, which can in turn affect how they develop their language and social skills.


Impact of Excessive Screen-time on Kids

In India, as of July 2016, 6.2 per cent of children were language delayed and language delay was found to be associated with medical disorders such as seizure disorder, ADHD and autism.

Another research paper titled, ‘Screen Time in Indian Children by 15-18 Months of Age’ published by University College of Medical Sciences showed that 99.7 per cent of children participants were exposed to atleast one type of digital screen (TV, laptop, computer, phone) by the time they were 18 months of age. 

Children are keen observers, soaking up everything they see around them, especially from their parents. When parents spend a lot of time on their phones, kids observe and imitate this behaviour. This can encourage children to use phones more frequently, following the example set by their parents. However, excessive screen time at a young age can have adverse effects, particularly on their language development skills. It's important for parents to be mindful of their own phone usage and its potential influence on their children.


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Parental phone habits play a significant role in shaping a child's behaviour towards technology. When kids see their parents frequently using phones during family time or conversations, they might perceive it as normal and acceptable behaviour. However, this constant exposure to screens might impede their language development as they miss out on valuable opportunities for interaction and learning. 

To address these issues, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for screen time in children. Those below 2 years old should not be exposed to any screen and children aged 2 to 5 years should limit screen time to one hour per day with less being preferable.


Tips for Changing Your Phone Habits

Mute Your Notifications: Turning off non-essential notifications can greatly reduce the urge to constantly check your phone. Choose to receive only important alerts like calls or messages from specific contacts.

Make Your Phone Less Appealing: Adjust your phone settings to grayscale mode, making the screen less vibrant and enticing. Additionally, consider keeping your phone in another room or out of sight to avoid constant glances at it.

Practice Co-Viewing and Active Communication: Engage in shared screen experiences with your children and actively discuss what they’re watching or doing online. Encourage conversations and questions, promoting a healthy interaction with screens.

Establish Screen-Free Zones: Designate certain areas in your home, like the dining area or bedrooms, as screen-free zones. This helps in cultivating an environment for focused interaction and relaxation without digital distractions.

Question Your Usage: Regularly reflect on your phone usage. Ask yourself if the time spent on your phone aligns with your priorities and values. Set intentional limits and make conscious choices about when and why you use your device. This self-awareness can lead to healthier phone habits.


We see you! Get exclusive access to the best parenting advice from experts. Sign up today. 

Your phone habits can shape your kids' language skills. By putting the phone down and engaging more, you're helping them develop important communication abilities and social skills. Let's create moments that nurture their growth and learning by being mindful of your phone usage.



Corporate 08 Jan 2024


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