Touch­screens af­fect tod­dlers’ mo­tor skills

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FAMILY TIES -

THE USE of touch­screens has in­creased mas­sively in re­cent years, with sta­tis­tics show­ing that in the UK alone, the num­ber of touch­screen de­vices in the fam­ily home has in­creased from 7% in 2011 to 71% in 2014.

How­ever, there is sig­nif­i­cant con­cern that use of touch­screen de­vices could hin­der, not help, cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment in chil­dren.

Guide­lines from the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics ad­vise that chil­dren should not be ex­posed to screens be­fore the age of two, with other coun­tries around the world also adopt­ing sim­i­lar guide­lines. De­spite this, many chil­dren are still al­lowed to use touch­screen de­vices.

How­ever, a new UK study has found that tod­dlers who use touch­screens may show im­proved fine mo­tor con­trol abil­i­ties.

To look fur­ther into pos­si­ble pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive ef­fects of the touch­screen trend, re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Lon­don and King’s Col­lege Lon­don gath­ered data from 715 UK fam­i­lies with chil­dren aged six to 36 months us­ing an on­line sur­vey. Par­ents were ques­tioned on whether their tod­dlers used touch­screens, when they first used one, and how of­ten and how long they use them.

The team also in­cluded spe­cific ques­tions to as­sess the devel­op­ment of the chil­dren, such as the age that they first stacked blocks, which in­di­cates fine mo­tor skills, or the age they first used two-word sen­tences, which in­di­cates lan­guage devel­op­ment.

The re­sponses showed that the ma­jor­ity of ba­bies and tod­dlers are ex­posed on a daily ba­sis to touch­screens, with 51.22% hav­ing ac­cess to a touch­screen at six to 11 months, with this num­ber in­creas­ing to 92.05% at 19-36 months.

When it came to their ef­fect on devel­op­ment, the team found no sig­nif­i­cant as­so­ci­a­tion, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, be­tween touch­screen use and the tod­dlers’ walk­ing or lan­guage devel­op­ment.

How­ever, they did find a pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tion in tod­dlers aged 19-36 months be­tween the age that they started ac­tively scrolling a touch­screen and the age that they were first able to stack blocks.

Al­though the pos­i­tive find­ing could be due to touch­screen use boost­ing fine mo­tor skills, it could also be that chil­dren with fine mo­tor skills are more likely to use touch­screens ear­lier, with the team ad­vis­ing that more re­search is needed to look fur­ther into the ef­fects of touch­screens on be­havioural, cog­ni­tive, and neu­ral devel­op­ment. – AFP-Re­laxnews

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