Young Children’s Popular Tech Use Distracts From Reading and Daily Conversation, According to New Poll of U.S. Parents

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ASHA, Read Aloud 15 MINUTES Stress Need for Offline Activities That Promote Development, Academic Success This Summer and Throughout the Year

National polling released today by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and Read Aloud 15 MINUTES shows that significant percentages of parents report their children’s popular technology use is routinely taking time away from reading and conversing—activities basic to fostering brain and communication development.

More than one third (34%) of parents polled said popular tech devices take away reading time for their child. Twenty-six percent of parents of children ages 0–2 said this is the case; the figures increase to 37% and 40% among parents with children ages 3–5 and 6–8, respectively.

Additionally, 43% of parents said popular technology devices are a barrier/distraction to conversation and interaction between themselves and their children. More than half (54%) said they “sometimes,” “often,” or “very often” ask their children to put down their devices in order to increase parent/child interaction. Among parents of children ages 0–2, 37% reported this to be the case, with boys more likely to be asked. The proportions jumped to 58% and 67% among parents with children ages 3–5 and 6–8, respectively.

But children aren’t the only tech enthusiasts: 41% of parents said their children sometimes (or more often) ask them to put down their devices and interact with them. About half of parents report that device use takes away from their own personal reading time.

“We know the vast majority of brain development occurs in the first 3 years of life—a foundational time for a child’s speech/language and social development,” ASHA 2018 President Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, said. “We also know that this development is fueled by daily opportunities for children to talk, read, sing, and play with parents and others.”

Davis-McFarland continued: “While apps may be able to teach new words or help children reinforce certain skills—and they certainly can occupy children—developmental benefit comes from genuine human interaction. So, while device usage itself may not necessarily be problematic, we do have concern if the time spent on them is taking time away from those vital daily interactions—as many parents are indicating. We urge parents to promote a healthy balance.”

The critical nature of daily reading and conversation also extends beyond the baby and toddler years—an area of increasing urgency to Read Aloud 15 MINUTES.

“An area of alarm for us is the documented decrease in daily reading aloud among children ages 6–8 in the United States,” said Read Aloud President and Co-Founder Dr. Candace Kendle. “This drop corresponds with our new poll showing an increase in usage of almost every type of mobile device among 6–8 year olds, as compared to the younger age set.”

“We must ensure device time is not replacing time for reading aloud with these children, who are approaching or are at a pivotal point in their academic careers—when grade-level reading is required to advance beyond 3rd grade and high-stakes testing is occurring.”

Conducted by YouGov earlier this year, the polling covered a nationally representative sample of 1,022 U.S. households with at least one child between ages 0 and 8.

To view the full poll results, click here.


About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 198,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.

About Read Aloud 15 MINUTES (Read Aloud 15 MINUTES) is a non-profit organization that is working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care. When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten; more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school; and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school. For more information, visit

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