“There are still pressing questions around how such exposure relates to long-term development and educational achievement, so further research is needed to examine the effects of touchscreens on behavioural, cognitive and neural development in children”
Dr Rachael Bedford from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London commenting on the findings of her study
Toddlers may benefit (All women, 2016, September 28) from the early use of Tablet computers.
So says a study from the University of London and King’s College London, whose research was published online in Frontiers in Psychology Journal. The use of touchscreens (Kings College London, 2016, September 15) has increased rapidly in the UK as follows:
- 7% of family homes in 2011 use a touchscreen device
- 71% of family homes in 2014 use a touchscreen device
So the scientists at University of London and King’s College London felt that research into the affects of tablets on toddlers aged six-11 months and 19-36 months was necessary.
They gathered data from 715 UK families to investigate the possible positive or negative effects of the touch screen use by toddlers. Their study primarily focused on children aged six to 36-month-olds with the data being collected via an online survey.
Parents were questioned about the toddlers use of touchscreens in terms of when, how often and how long they used them. They also asked questions (Bedford, R. et al, 2016) to assess the developement of the child via tracking the following mile-markers in their developement:
- Age that they first stacked blocks
- Age they first used two-word sentences
Stacking of blocks indicates the developement of fine motor skills with use of two-word sentences indicating their first steps towards adopting the language of their parents.
So what were the responses of these parents being surveyed?
Touchscreen Research – Toddlers aged 19-36 months like touching touch screens
Assuming the responses were indeed accurate, the results are interesting:
- 51.22% having access to a touchscreen at six-11 months
- 92.05% having access to a touchscreen at 19-36 months
The scientists found no positive or negative correlation with touchscreen use to the toddlers’ walking or language development. However, they did detect a positive correlation among toddlers aged 19-36 months, as these toddlers also began being able to stack blocks. In other words, there is some association with the use of tablets and the early developement of fine motor skills.
Good to note that this is only correlation, not causation. Also, the small sample size makes these results inconclusive.
Even Dr Rachael Bedford from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London admits as much, quote: “Our study shows an association between earlier scrolling on a touchscreen device and earlier milestones in motor skills. However, we cannot infer the direction of this effect – children with advanced fine motor skills may be more likely to actively scroll a touchscreen, or alternatively, exposure to touchscreen devices may encourage practice of finger and hand control”.
Still, their research does suggest (Bedford, R. et al, 2016) that touchscreen may act as an early stimulant for toddlers aged 19-36 months to develope their fine motor skills. Or it may be that toddlers aged 19-36 months with fine motor skills are more likely to use touchscreens earlier?
Tablet for Toddlers in Primary Schools – Jamaican Tablet in School Project validated
It really boils down to what they’re doing on their touch screen devices.
They might simply be attracted to moving or still images that stimulate them to try to touch what they see on the screen. This aspect should have been explored, as it would have huge implications for developers of apps for toddlers aged 19-36 months.
If they’re developing fine motor skills due to certain types of still of moving images, it may well lead to the developement of more apps for this age range. This may translate to revenue from an app developer from parents eager to have their children becoming more kinesthetic (Bucknell University, 2014) learners.
An early conclusion educators in Jamaica can draw, however, is that the decision to introduce tablets to Primary School Students (Deer, 2015, December 4) under the Tablet in School Program is the right decision. Many High School Students have been abusing the privilege (Deer, 2015, March 10) of having access to a Tablet, often going on pornography websites.
However, an audit done by the Ministry of Education (Deer, 2015, September 13) has established the fact that Tablets in Schools help boys to focus in class. Tablets in Schools program also heralds more Interactive Technology based learning in the classroom (Deer, 2016, February 3), potentially increase the interest among girls to pursue a career in ICT (Deer, 2014, July 27) when they go on to Tertiary Education.
So tablet have been demonstrated in Jamaica to have a positive effect on learning in the classroom.
Clearly, more research is needed to connect touchscreens and their effect on behavioural, cognitive, and neural development of on toddlers aged six-11 months and 19-36 months.
But the Ministry of Education in Jamaica already known of the practical benefits of Tablets on Primary and Infant School children; we’re already expanding the Tablet in Schools Program to potentially include robotics (Deer, 2016, September) as part of the Curriculum for High School Students!
- All women. (2016, September 28). Touchscreens may help toddlers develop better motor skills. Retrieved to http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Touchscreens-may-help-toddlers-develop-better-motor-skills_75345
- Bedford, R et al. (2016). Toddlers’ Fine Motor Milestone Achievement Is Associated with Early Touchscreen Scrolling Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01108/full
- Bucknell University. (2014). Kinesthetic Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/jvt002/Docs/ASEE-2008b.pdf
- Deer, L. (2014, July 27). Tablet In Schools Project launched for September 2014 – How Teachers Benefit as Female interest in ICT Industry Blossoms. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/07/tablet-in-schools-project-launched-for.html
- Deer, L. (2015, December 4). 700 Tablets for East Kingston and Port Royal Primary Schools – Why Raspberry Pi Zero Great for Jamaican Secondary Schools. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/12/700-Tablets-East-Kingston-Port-Royal-Primary-Schools.html
- Deer, L. (2015, March 10). GOJ can’t stop TIS Project Tablet Hacking – How to Access Blocked Websites using Browsers, VPN Apps and Custom Cloud Drives. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/03/TIS-Project-VPN-Browsers-Cloud-Drives.html
- Deer, L. (2015, September 13). Audit of Jamaican TIS Pilot Project – Why Minister of Technology, Phillip Paulwell extended to June 2016. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/09/Audit-of-Jamaican-TIS-Pilot-Project.html
- Deer, L. (2016, February 3). How Teachers’ Colleges getting TIS Project Tablets heralds Projectors and Interactive Whiteboards for Engaging Teaching. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2016/02/Teachers-Colleges–TIS-Project-Tablets.html
- Deer, L. (2016, September). Vybz Kartel Official VK Line launches robotics camp for High Schools in Portmore. Retrieved from https://lindsworthdeer.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/official-vk-line-launches-robotics-camp/
- Kings College London. (2016, September 15). Touchscreens may improve motor skills in toddlers. Retrieve from http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/news/records/2016/September/Touchscreens-may-improve-motor-skills-in-toddlers.aspx