Variability and patterns in children's media use and links with language development

Acta Paediatr. 2024 May;113(5):1032-1039. doi: 10.1111/apa.17100. Epub 2024 Jan 10.


Aim: Media use is widespread and rising, but how often and for what purpose young children use media varies, which has differential impacts on development. Yet little work has measured how and why children under 36 months use digital media or media's consequences for language.

Methods: The current study measures how and why 17- to 30-month-old children use digital media and associations with their language abilities. The amount of use, type of activity and caregiver reasons for children's media use were then compared to the child's vocabulary and mean length of utterance.

Results: About 17- to 30-month-old children are primarily exposed to TV/videos over other media forms, which are often used to occupy children. Video time (but not other activities) negatively predicts children's language. The negative impact of videos on vocabulary persists regardless of the reason for use, however, the effect of videos on expressive language may be tempered when videos are used for education or connecting.

Conclusion: Children under 36 months are using digital media at high rates. What they are doing and why they use media is critical to predict the effect it might have on language development. Further research and anticipatory guidance on the consequences of videos are needed.

Keywords: child development; digital media; language development; vocabulary.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Internet*
  • Language
  • Language Development*
  • Vocabulary