The growing prevalence of digital devices has been thrown into stark relief by the findings of a new study, which showed that a quarter of children aged three and under now own an iPad, a proportion which rises to 31 per cent amongst children under five and 37 per cent for those between three and five.
Researchers found that young children with access to such gadgets spend an average of one hour and 19 minutes on the device each weekday, often without the supervision of an adult.
Concerned by their findings the researchers have called for the introduction of ‘family digital literacy programmes’ for pre-schoolers to guide the use of apps and tablets in early years.
This is aimed at prioritising apps aimed exclusively at young children which can be helpful for play and creativity, whilst warding off the use of popular apps such as Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds which are not. Parents are also urged to devote time to sharing these experiences with their children.
Research leader Jackie Marsh, of Sheffield University, remarked: “The study showed that the use of apps on tablets by pre-schoolers can be very productive and foster a wide range of play and creativity.
“However, apps need to be chosen carefully by parents for this age group. Apps that contain adverts and pop-ups for in-app purchases can limit children’s play. In addition, whilst children of this age want to play some of the same games that their older siblings or parents play, these are not age-appropriate and do not offer a great deal of value for pre-schoolers.”
The study findings were based on an analysis of 2,000 parents of children aged up to five.