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A third of children under the age of five have been given their own iPad and use it for an average of one hour and 20 minutes a day, academics have revealed.
Some 31 per cent of under-fives have an iPad and their average use is one hour and 19 minutes on weekdays and one hour and 23 minutes on weekends, according to research by the University of Sheffield.
Researchers found the age group used their tablets to watch television programmes and films, play games, listen to music, draw and paint, create virtual worlds, look after pets, dress up avatars and engage in role play.
More than half of the under-fives studied proved themselves to be tech-savvy and able to swipe the screen, trace shapes with their fingers, drag items across the screen, open apps, draw things, tap the screen to operate commands, enter and exit apps and turn the device on and off without any assistance.
The research was undertaken as a collaboration between the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, Monteney Primary School in Sheffield, CBeebies, and children’s media industry partners Dubit and Foundling Bird.
Professor Lydia Plowman of the University of Edinburgh, said: “When parents upgrade their tablet many pass on their older model to their children. Budget models are also popular gifts, as parents don’t have to worry so much about breakages. While there are benefits to children becoming independent users, it’s also important that parents are able to find time to share the experience of interacting with apps.”
The study found that children’s top favourite apps were YouTube, CBeebies, Angry Birds, Peppa’s Paintbox, Talking Tom, Temple Run, Minecraft and Disney.
Davina Ludlow, director of daynurseries.co.uk said: “Children are increasingly exposed to an overwhelming amount of technology at an early age.
“Whilst we understand that the use of some apps may have educational benefits, we are concerned that technology is increasingly displacing the traditional methods of learning and play activities and encouraging sedentary behaviour.
“At that age especially, children deserve to develop the all-important social skills that are gained from social interaction. A poll we conducted last year showed the majority of people clearly feel the same. They want to see early education and childhood play protected from the fast-paced world of technology.”