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02:02 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter @kellywallacetv.

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A study found a link between handheld screen time and speech delays

It is believed to be the first study to examine mobile media device use and communication in babies

CNN  — 

Anyone raising a child today has likely fretted about screen time and wondered about the impact of devices on our kids. Does the technology affect their brains? Does it limit their social development? Could it harm them emotionally? Could it delay when they start talking?

I had never thought about that last question until a new study, released Thursday and being presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, revealed some striking findings.

The study found that the more time children between the ages of six months and two years spent using handheld screens such as smartphones, tablets and electronic games, the more likely they were to experience speech delays.

“I believe it’s the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children,” said Dr. Catherine Birken, the study’s senior investigator and a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario. “It’s the first time that we’ve sort of shone a light on this potential issue, but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it’s really a first look.”

In the study, which involved nearly 900 children, parents reported the amount of time their children spent using screens in minutes per day at age 18 months. Researchers then used an infant toddler checklist, a validated screening tool, to assess the children’s language development also at 18 months. They looked at a range of things, including whether the child uses sounds or words to get attention or help and puts words together, and how many words the child uses.

Twenty percent of the children spent an average of 28 minutes a day using screens, the study found. Every 30-minute increase