Does watching educational programs help children speak better?



Many parents only allow their children to watch educational content. When it comes to screen time, is that the best strategy? Yes and no.

Young people who do not follow WHO guidelines on screen time have less extensive vocabularies and a more difficult time understanding the context of a conversation.

When she compared the screen time and verbal comprehension of 149 children between the ages of 4 and 7, Tania Tremblay, teacher at Collège Montmorency and associate researcher at UQAM, observed that educational programs such as "Dora the Explorer" do not seem to disrupt speech development, while entertainment programs such as "Batman" are linked to weaker language skills. Still, she stresses that educational programming does not actually help children learn to speak better, since time spent in front of a screen is time away from social interactions and books—two essential language learning activities.

According to the neuropsychologist's most recent studies, young people who do not follow WHO guidelines on screen time (1 hour/day for children 2 to 5 years old and 2 hours/day for children 5 to 12) have less extensive vocabularies and a more difficult time understanding the context of a conversation. For example, they are less sensitive to the people with whom they engage in conversation, make less eye contact and have more trouble letting others speak and understanding irony.

To foster the sound development of language and communication, the researcher recommends limiting screen time to encourage conversation and reading and making sure children watch educational programming.

Tania Tremblay submitted a brief outlining her findings to the Direction de la santé publique du Québec.