: Over the past decade, the use of digital tools has grown and research evidence suggests that traditional media and new media offer both benefits and health risks for young children. The abilities to understand and use language represent two of the most important competencies developed during the first 3 years of life through the interaction of the child with people, objects, events, and other environmental factors. The main goal of our study is to evaluate the relationship between digital devices use and language abilities in children between 8 and 36 month, also considering the influence of several factors. Materials and Methods
: We conducted a cross-sectional observational study on digital devices use and language abilities in260 children (140 males = 54%) aged between 8 and 36 months (mean = 23.5 ± 7.18 months). All the parents completed a self-report questionnaire investigating the use of digital devices by their children, and a standardized questionnaire for the assessment of language skills (MacArthur-Bates). Linear regression analysis was used to evaluate the relation between different variables. Subsequent moderation analysis were performed to verify the influence of other factors. Results
: We found a statistically significant negative relation between the total daily time of exposure to digital devices and the Actions and Gestures Quotient (ß = −0.397) in children between 8 and 17 months, and between the total daily time of exposure to digital devices and Lexical Quotient (ß = −0.224) in children between 18 and 36 months. Gender, level of education/job of parents, modality of use/content of digital device did not significantly affect the result of the regression analysis. Conclusion
: In our study we found that a longer time of exposure to digital devices was related to lower mimic-gestural skills in children from 8–17 months and to lower language skills in children between 18 and 36 months, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic status, content, and modality of use. Further studies are needed to confirm and better understand this relation, but parents and pediatricians are advised to limit the use of digital devices by children and encourage the social interaction to support the learning of language and communication skills in this age group.
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