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Younger toddler use of touchscreens correlates with increased fine motor control – sciencedaily

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

Smartphones and tablets are now commonplace at work and at home. If you’re reading this on your morning commute on public transport, chances are it’s on a touchscreen device, surrounded by people completely engrossed in their own touchscreens.

There has been a dramatic increase in the possession 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. So it’s no surprise that children use touchscreens from a young age, but is it a good thing or not?

The effects of touchscreen use on young children are of concern to some parents and policy makers. Popular opinion considers that the use of touch screens at an early age can delay the cognitive development of children. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against exposing children to screens, including touch screens, before the age of two, and similar agencies in other countries have adopted these guidelines.

However, we do not yet know if these fears are justified, as it turns out that when it comes to touchscreens, they are not 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 thoroughly studied the relationship between child development and the use of touch screens, as the technology is still very recent and children who have used it from infancy are still very youth.

Despite the instructions, in reality, many toddlers use touch screens from an early age. Dr Tim J Smith of Birbeck, University of London saw the need for stronger data and, with the help of his staff at King’s College, set up an online survey to UK parents to answer questions about their children’s use of the touchscreen.

This included questions about whether toddlers used touch screens, when they first used one, and how often and for how long they used them. The survey also included specific questions to assess children’s development, such as the age at which they first stacked blocks, which indicates fine motor skills, or the age at which they first used two-word sentences, indicating language development.

A total of 715 families responded and the study confirmed that the use of touch screens is extremely common among British toddlers. “The study showed that the majority of toddlers are exposed to touchscreen devices on a daily basis, dropping from 51.22% at 6-11 months to 92.05% at 19-36 months,” Dr. Smith.

They found no significant association between the use of touch screens and walking or language development. However, “in toddlers aged 19-36 months, we found that the age at which parents reported their child for the first time actively scrolling a touchscreen was positively associated with the age at which they were. was able for the first time to stack blocks, a measure of fine motor control. “

It is not yet known whether this correlation indicates that the use of touchscreens can improve fine motor skills, or whether children with fine motor skills are more likely to use touchscreens earlier, and therefore more work is needed. to determine the nature of this relationship more precisely. However, it is clear that the current generation of toddlers are adapting quickly to this new technology and these children appear ready to use these devices throughout their lives.

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