Nav: Home

Touchscreens may boost motor skills in toddlers

October 06, 2016

Does your toddler use a touchscreen tablet? A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology has shown that early touchscreen use, and in particular actively scrolling the screen, correlates with increased fine motor control in toddlers.

Smartphones and tablets are now commonplace at work and in the home. If you are reading this on your morning commute on public transport, it is likely to be on a touchscreen device, while surrounded by people who are completely absorbed by their own touchscreens.

There has been a dramatic increase in the ownership and use of tablets and smartphones in recent years. In the UK, family ownership of touchscreen devices increased from 7% in 2011 to 71% in 2014. It is therefore not surprising that children are using touchscreens from a very early age, but is this a good thing or not?

The effects of using touchscreens on young children are a concern for some parents and policymakers. Popular opinion holds that using touchscreens at an early age is likely to delay the cognitive development of children. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children should not be exposed to any screens, including touchscreens, before the age of two, and similar agencies in other countries have adopted these guidelines.

However, we don't yet know if these fears are justified, as it turns out that when it comes to touchscreens, they aren't backed by hard data. The current guidelines are arguably more of a knee-jerk reaction to a new technology than an informed health strategy.

Scientists have not yet extensively studied the relationship between childhood development and using touchscreens, because the technology is still so new and the children that have used it from early childhood are still very young.

Despite the guidelines, in reality many toddlers use touchscreens from a very early age. Dr. Tim J. Smith of Birbeck, University of London, realized that there is a need for more solid data and with the help of his collaborators at King's College, set up an online survey for UK parents to answer questions about their children's touchscreen use.

This included questions about whether the toddlers used touchscreens, when they first used one, and how often and how long they use them. The survey 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.

In total, 715 families responded and the study confirmed that using touchscreens is extremely common in UK toddlers. "The study showed that the majority of toddlers have daily exposure to touchscreen devices, increasing from 51.22% at 6-11 months to 92.05% at 19-36 months," explained Dr. Smith.

They found no significant associations between using touchscreens and either walking or language development. However, "in toddlers aged 19-36 months, we found that the age that parents reported their child first actively scrolling a touchscreen was positively associated with the age that they were first able to stack blocks, a measure of fine motor control."

It is not yet known if this correlation indicates that using touchscreens can enhance fine motor skills, or if children with fine motor skills are more likely to use touchscreens earlier, and so further work is required to determine the nature of this relationship more precisely. However, it is clear that the current generation of toddlers is adapting rapidly to this new technology and these children look set to use these devices throughout their lives.
-end-


Frontiers

Related Technology Articles:

How technology use affects at-risk adolescents
More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems over time for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
Hold-up in ventures for technology transfer
The transfer of technology brings ideas closer to commercialization. The transformation happens in several steps, such as invention, innovation, building prototypes, production, market introduction, market expansion, after sales services.
The ultimate green technology
Imagine patterning and visualizing silicon at the atomic level, something which, if done successfully, will revolutionize the quantum and classical computing industry.
New technology detects COPD in minutes
Pioneering research by Professor Paul Lewis of Swansea University's Medical School into one of the most common lung diseases in the UK, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has led to the development of a new technology that can quickly and easily diagnose and monitor the condition.
New technology for powder metallurgy
Tecnalia leads EFFIPRO (Energy EFFIcient PROcess of Engineering Materials) project, which shows a new manufacturing process using powder metallurgy.
New milestone in printed photovoltaic technology
A team of researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universit├Ąt have achieved an important milestone in the quest to develop efficient solar technology as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Gene Drive Technology: Where is the future?
For this episode of BioScience Talks, we're joined by Gene Drive Committee co-chair James P.
Could Hollywood technology help your health?
The same technology used by the entertainment industry to animate characters such as Gollum in 'The Lord of The Rings' films, will be used to help train elite athletes, for medical diagnosis and even to help improve prosthetic limb development, in a new research center at the University of Bath launched today.
Assessing carbon capture technology
Carbon capture and storage could be used to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and thus ameliorate their impact on climate change.
New technology for dynamic projection mapping
It has been thought technically difficult to achieve projection mapping onto a moving/rotating object so that images look as though they are fixed to the object.

Related Technology Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.