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Early Touchscreen Use and Fine Motor Development

A research group from the UK investigated how early touchscreen use affects toddler’s development and found that while it did not affect the children’s language and gross motor abilities, it lead to earlier fine motor development.


As touchscreen usage in families rapidly increases, there is the inevitable question of how the use of these devices influences the development of young children. It seems, that TV viewing, and playing video games might have a more negative effect on the development of children, but the effects of touchscreen use are not yet known.

A research group from the UK published their findings from the Toddler Attentional Behaviours and Learning with Touchscreens (TABLET) in Frontiers in Psychology. The project focused on touchscreen habits in 6-36-month-olds and the association between toddlers` first touchscreen use and developmental milestones. 715 parents responded to an online questionnaire about their children`s touchscreen exposure and age they reached motor and language developmental milestones. Researchers found that families owned an average of 3.73 devices per household, and almost 10% of 6-36-month-olds had their own device. Overall, 75% of the children used touchscreens regularly, which increased to 92.05% by the age of 25-36 months. Also, daily screen-time increased from 24.45 minutes at 6-11 months to 43.95 minutes at 25-36 months. The average reported first touchscreen use occurred at 13.13 months of age. Researchers found no significant association between the age of first touchscreen use and gross motor or language development. However, the age of first touchscreen use (scrolling) was significantly associated with the fine motor milestone of stacking blocks.

In conclusion, using touchscreen devices, specifically scrolling of the screen, at an early age does not affect language and gross motor development, but may accelerate the development of fine motor abilities. It seems that current recommendation for zero screen time until the age of 2 years may be.


Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros

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