BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With children out of school and interacting less with their peers, researchers at the University of Maryland are trying to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their language development.

All of us are spending a lot more time in front of screens and a lot more time at home.

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For children, it’s becoming the normal way for them to go to school, and some parents say they’re concerned about how that’s affecting their learning and development.


“I’m worried about it impacting the learning just because she’s at home all day and really distracted by in-house things,” Sheneria Miller, a local parent, told WJZ.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and Boston College are now looking into how children’s language development is affected by school closings, social distancing and online learning.

Professors Yi Ting Huang and Josh Hartshorne began the study in March after seeing how radically different learning and social environments were.

“A lot of interactions occur these days over things like Zoom or FaceTime, and so that really changes the way in which we’re interpreting people’s speech and conversations,” Huang said.

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They’re using an app developed for the study called KidTalk that records parents’ interactions with their kids during the pandemic.

But they also wanted it to be something families would also enjoy using

“KidTalk is basically a small family social network, so you can build a scrapbook of your child just for yourself or you can share it with friends,” Hartshorne said.

They don’t think many children will fall behind in language development, but they say it’s still important to study the differences during the pandemic because times like these are so unusual and not easy to study.

“It’s a big enough deal that, on a societal level, we should be trying to understand it so that we can handle any effects on an individual parent by parent level,” Hartshorne said.

Results from this study will be made available in the coming months. There are currently 400 families enrolled in the study.

You can visit their website for more information by clicking here, and learn more about the app by clicking here. 

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Stetson Miller