May 16, 2017

Overuse of technology called a 'time bomb' - especially for students with speech and hearing problems

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Mindy Karten Bornemann
Caption: Mindy Karten Bornemann, a speech language pathologist at Bayside High School in Queens, is head of the speech chapter of the United Federation of Teachers. Photo by Becky Miller.

Many educators and parents realize the importance of keeping students engaged by getting them off their computers, phones and other head-burying technology. It is an even more vital mission for speech language pathologists, who work with students who require essential time to talk and interact with each other in order to develop and learn.

The American Speech and Hearing Association, ASHA, calls this overuse of personal technology a “time bomb” after reporting results from a technology use survey.

Mindy Karten-Bornemann, a speech language pathologist at Bayside High School in Queens, calls this “The latest challenge to communication.” She is head of the speech chapter of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 3,200 speech teachers and speech language pathologists and brings attention to the latest concerns — especially during May’s Better Speech and Hearing Month.

“Children have less ability to attend to each other, and even young children are experiencing delays with social contexts,” said the veteran educator who has worked in the field of speech and hearing for 37 years; she is also a member of NYSUT’s Health Care Professionals Council.

“The primary way young children learn is through verbal communication,” reports ASHA.

Repeated earphone, headphone or ear bud use at high volumes can also cause irreversible hearing loss, and in young people, can cause difficulty speaking and understanding verbal communication, according to ASHA. It can also cause sleep difficulties, feeling of annoyance and confusion, and reluctance to take part in activities with others, among other problems.

A May 2016 survey by ASHA shows that teens spend 5.8 hours a day using a personal technology device. Parents are not far behind at 5.5. Nearly all teens in the study report they text or instant message friends; half of them check phones at the dinner table, and even use texting to communicate with parents while at home. The majority of parents in the study report speaking with children while looking at their own phone.

When educated about these issues, the majority of teens and parents in the survey said they were willing to change their habits.

Communication is the theme for this year’s Better Speech and Hearing Month. The 14,863 certified speech educators in New York State use the opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, push forward on professional development and honor students. The UFT provides staff development for members with guest speakers on weekends, and continuing education credits. New members can take advantage of speech survival class.

For 11 years, the UFT has hosted a citywide contest honoring speech and hearing therapists who have created special projects, written grants, created events for their communities, or taken on research in the field. Educators were honored at a celebratory event last week, along with children who submitted posters, poems and videos about speech and hearing.

These students take on life every day with conditions including stuttering, autism spectrum disorder, cleft palate, motor speech disorders, developmental delays, and speech, language and hearing issues. Speech language pathology has also grown to include children with cochlear implants and developmental disabilities.

ASHA is conducting a nationwide media tour this month to focus on the findings of the effects of technology, to encourage hearing protection tips, and to urge people to visit an audiologist if they are concerned about their hearing. Their public outreach will include communicating with people with autism; signs of stroke; and bilingual speech/language development.


  • Try a “tech-free” night one night a week at home
  • When communicating with people with speech and hearing conditions, remember to give them extra time; speak at a normal rate and volume; face the speaker; avoid idioms or figurative language; reword information if a person does not understand you, perhaps even offering a choice of responses. Use visual clues if possible.


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