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Children benefit from sensory stimulation more when using iPads than books, according to new research conducted by the University of London.
The research group studied 36 children aged six and ten months old, monitoring how easily they could identify numbers when displayed on a tablet.
Leading the research at the developmental neurocognition lab at Birkbeck, University of London, Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith highlighted the benefits of children regularly using iPads from a young age.
Speaking in The Sunday Times, Professor Karmiloff-Smith said: “They learn so fast on tablets. It is shocking how fast they learn, even faster than adults to do things like scroll up and down text.
“Books are static. When you observe babies with books, all they are interested in is the sound of the pages turning. Their visual system at that age is attracted by movement.
“That is why tablets, which have moving pictures and sound, are very good.”
The department is now monitoring a larger number of babies and toddlers between six months and three years old, giving half tablets from birth and allowing the other half to have limited access to tablets and similar devices.
Speaking about the predicted results of a larger study, Professor Karmiloff-Smith said she expects to observe better behaviour, motor control and visual attention in children regularly using iPads. She commented: “Everything we know about child development tells us this will be the case. You see an adult trying to learn on a tablet and it is hopeless. You see a 12-month-old learning on a tablet and it is so quick.”
In the past, scientists have warned of the effects of exposing children to computer screens, causing ‘temporary dementia’ and ‘damaging the brain’.
Professor Karmiloff-Smith added: “It’s OK for your baby to be given an iPad from the beginning. They might put a corner in their mouth, they will then explore it physically, then, they will use it to do things.”
“Everything we know about child development tells us that tablet computers should not be banned for babies and toddlers.”
Professor Karmiloff-Smith advised parents to engage with their children as they use an iPad, helping to point things out and talk to their child about what is happening on the screen, to help nurture their development.