The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Rockville, Md, has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the potential negative impact that the misuse of entertainment media could have on the hearing and communication development of children.

ASHA raised its concerns in response to the FCC’s solicitation of comments about how it can best empower parents and protect children in an evolving media landscape.

The agency’s solicitation comes on the heels of the release of a Kaiser Family Foundation study in January that found that, in 2009, children ages 8 to 18 were using entertainment media (TV, music, Internet, etc) 7 hours and 38 minutes per day, and had even longer usage—10 hours and 45 minutes per day—if media multitasking was taken into account. Those figures also represented a sharp increase from just 5 years earlier, the last time Kaiser studied the same age group’s daily usage of media.

"We urge the FCC to include the communication health of our children as an area of importance to empower parents and protect children in an evolving media landscape," ASHA President Tommie L. Robinson, Jr, PhD, CCC-SLP, wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in comments that were submitted at the end of February. "Public and private parties need to work together to address the adverse effect that the misuse of entertainment media can have on a child’s health and communication skills. It is imperative the FCC raise these concerns in its public education efforts."

Robinson noted what the misuse of entertainment may mean for a child’s hearing and communication development.

In terms of hearing, Robinson wrote that the consequences of a hearing loss can be devastating, especially for a child. Studies show that even a mild hearing loss due to excessive noise can lead to delays in speech and language development, affecting a student’s ability to pay attention in the classroom.

With respect to communication development, Robinson noted that a child’s overreliance on entertainment media reduces opportunities for language interactions and reading and writing skills. He said that the time spent in front of the computer screen or using other forms of entertainment media decreases the amount of time that parents have to talk to their children—which could lead to language delay in young children.

For older children, the overuse of electronic entertainment media such as sending text messages rather than talking to peers, can reduce or negatively affect the quality of written expression, he added. Robinson noted that overreliance on text messaging also can impede a student’s ability to read books and write papers that require understanding and the use of long, complex sentences with a variety of words.

The FCC should "include in its discussions these additional concerns: the potential risk of noise induced hearing loss from the misuse of personal audio technology, and the potential negative impact of the overuse of entertainment media on communication development, specifically in the areas of talking, listening, reading, and writing," Robinson urged.

Click here to view a copy of Robinson’s letter to the FCC.

[Source: ASHA]