Language Development, Physical Health, Vision and Screen Time: Not Such Great Playmates!

Language Development, Physical Health, Vision and Screen Time: Not Such Great Playmates!

Dr Jane Williams, Dr Tessa Grigg and Bindy Cummings

As we rely on screens more and more – you will be reading this on a screen, there is growing evidence that screens and young children’s development do not go together well. Some current research on this topic will hopefully encourage you to limit screen time for your little ones, and also to put down your own device so you can spend more face-to-face time with your children.

We have previously written about screens affecting children’s visual development. The research regarding the regular use of small screens and mobile devices by children is now very clear. Professor Molina, an optometrist who lectures in Clinical Optometry,1  warns us that if we allow our very young children to use screens on a regular basis, they will join the 50% of the population who will need glasses…. many by eight years of age!  However, there are ways to avoid myopia (short-sightedness) caused by too much screen time, and at GymbaROO-KindyROO we provide you with lots of activities that do just that!

We have also previously talked about the negative impact that screen time has on children’s physical health. A recent Australian study 2 found that, while the effects of screen time on younger children were not as evident, it appeared to have a cumulative effect, and was more prevalent in teenagers. They found lowered health outcomes and lowered physical activity attributes relating to muscle strength, movement skills and heart health. Sitting still with a screen has long-term effects on the whole body.

Now, there is also clear evidence that children’s language development is being negatively impacted by screen time. Australian research 3 has shown that, as a result of adults spending more time on their devices, children are not being exposed to as much talking (speech) from adults, and this is reducing the children’s vocabulary. We need to remember that listening and absorbing is how children learn a language. The research suggests that children are missing out on over 1000 adult words per day! You can read the full article click here.

Finally, a recent Canadian study 4 found that increased screen usage in children showed lower reading activities and that there was a flow-on effect to greater screen usage when the child was older. They recommended device-free activities to foster early literacy activities.

Our suggestions are that, as parents, we all need to heed the warnings of those researching and working in the area of screens, language development, general health and vision/eye health. According to Prof. Molina, the first step we need to take is to control our children’s screen use. He recommends ‘NO’ to device/screen use in children from birth to 3 years as the young child’s visual system is still developing, and eyes are being trained for optimum use. From 3 to 6 years of age, a one-hour limit weekly should be imposed, and between 6 and 12 years, two hours maximum weekly will not cause long term harm to our children’s eyes.

At GymbaROO-KindyROO our games and activities are designed to ensure that your child has lots of visual development time along with language development opportunities. Almost every activity has a visual purpose – whether it be visual-motor, visual-tactile, visual sequencing or visual integration tasks, and an auditory development purpose; auditory-motor, auditory sequencing and/or auditory integration. Our program is designed to make sure all-round development has the chance to be as healthy as possible.

Home activities that assist in healthy development

Here are some fabulous activities to enjoy with your child (instead of screen time!)

  • Visit your local playground regularly. Children need to be outside to stimulate long distance vision and to get their eyes working together with large muscle movements.
  • Have fun with large sheets of paper for drawing or painting. Large chalkboards are great as they stimulate hand-eye coordination while working the big muscles of the arms and upper body.
  • Make up your own obstacle courses with cardboard boxes, planks, old tires and other climbable, crawlable, jumpable objects to help develop visual spatial skills.
  • Play tactile games with playdoh, finger-painting, pipe cleaners, cutting and gluing (3 years plus), to assist hand-eye coordination.
  • Talk, read and sing to and with your child as often as possible


  1. Molina VG. Children’s vision challenges in the digital era. International INPP Conference; Madrid, Spain2018.
  2. Hardy LL, Ding D, Peralta LR, Mihrshahi S, Merom D. Association Between Sitting, Screen Time, Fitness Domains, and Fundamental Motor Skills in Children Aged 5–16 Years: Cross-Sectional Population Study. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2018;15(12):933-40.
  3. Brushe ME, Haag DG, Melhuish EC, Reilly S, Gregory T. Screen time and parent-child talk when children are aged 12 to 36 months. JAMA Pediatrics. 2024.
  4. McArthur BA, Browne D, McDonald S, Tough S, Madigan S. Longitudinal associations between screen use and reading in preschool-aged children. Pediatrics. 2021;147(6).


Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)). Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development

Dr Tessa Grigg (PhD, Dip Tch Primary and ECE) is an experienced teacher and the Research and Education Manager at GymbaROO-KindyROO.

Bindy Cummings (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, a GymbaROO early childhood neuro-developmental consultant and the