How does the use of touchscreen devices affect our little ones?
This is a question that has probably crossed the mind of many recent parents given the sudden increase in touchscreen devices in our lives and the enthusiasm most children show for using them. According to a recent survey, family ownership of touchscreens has increased from 7% in 2011 to 71% in 2014 (OfCom, 2014). This is a huge change in a child's early media environment and as Developmental Scientists it made us wonder how early exposure to such devices might influence the way our children are developing. Currently there is very little scientific research investigating this topic. This project is the first attempt to fill this gap.
In the Leverhulme and Wellcome Trust-funded TABLET (Toddler Attentional Behaviours and LEarning with Touchscreens) project* we are studying how 6 month to 3 year old infants are using touchscreen devices and how this use (or lack of use) is influencing their cognitive, brain and social development. The project takes place both on-line, via short questionnaires and at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (otherwise known as the ‘Babylab’) at Birkbeck, University of London, a pioneering research centre that uses cutting-edge neuroscientific methods to investigate infant development.
Families around the world have participated via a series of on-line questionnaires. For those living around London, we have also run a follow-on study at the BabyLab that is providing us with a detailed insight into their child's cognitive and brain development. The eventual aim of the TABLET project is to provide an evidence base for parents, policy makers and scientists to better understand the relationship between how the current generation is developing in their media environment and inform future guidelines for what may constitute appropriate use of touchscreen devices.
***We are currently not recruiting participants but watch this space for future calls.***
*The TABLET project has received ethical approval from the Birkbeck, Psychological Sciences ethics committee (Ref 141570).