Screen time may be good for toddlers and can improve their attention, study claims
Screen time may be good for toddlers and can actually help to improve their attention, a new study claims.
Researchers from the University of Bath have revealed that toddlers with high daily touchscreen use are faster to find targets that stood out during visual search than toddlers with no or low touchscreen use.
The team hopes the findings will help to settle the debate about the effects of screen time on young children.
Professor Tim Smith, who led the study, said: “The use of smartphones and tablets by babies and toddlers has accelerated rapidly in recent years.
“The first few years of life are critical for children to develop the ability to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distraction, early skills that are known to be important for later academic achievement.
“There has been growing concern that toddler touchscreen use may negatively impact their developing attention but this fear is not based on empirical evidence.”(Image: Getty Images/Mint Images RF)
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In the study, the researchers recruited 12-month-old toddlers who had different levels of touchscreen use.
The toddlers were followed over 2.5 years, and were brought into the lab at 18 months and 3.5 years.
During these visits, the toddlers took part in a computer task in which they were trained to search for a red apple among a varying number of either blue apples or blue apples and red apple slices.
An eye tracker monitored their gaze and visually rewarded the child when they found the red apple.
Dr Rachael Bedford, co-investigator, said: “We found that at both 18 months and 3.5 years the high touchscreen users were faster than the low users to find the red apple when it stood out amongst blue apples.Video Loading Video Unavailable The video will start in8Cancel Play now
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“There was no difference between the user groups when the apple was harder to find. What we need to know next is whether this attention difference is advantageous or detrimental to their everyday life.
“It is important we understand how to use this modern technology in a way that maximises benefits and minimises any negative consequences.”
The researchers highlight that there may be other factors at play, beyond the children’s touchscreen use.
Dr Ana Maria Portugal, main researcher on the project, added: “We are currently unable to conclude that the touchscreen use caused the differences in attention as it may also be that children who are generally more attracted to bright, colourful features seek out touchscreen devices more than those who are not.”