Touchscreens affect toddlers’ motor skills
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