Apps ‘don’t affect children’s language development’ if parents still read stories

Watching television or playing with smart phone apps does not have any effect on children’s language development – providing they still spend time reading, researchers have found.

A study from the University of Salford and Lancaster University, published in the Journal Of Children And Media, has found that as long as parents or carers spend time reading with young children, and this time is not reduced in place of television or touchscreen devices such as iPads, children’s exposure to these media should have no effect on the size of their vocabulary.

A team of researchers from the University of Salford and the ESRC International Centre for Language and Cognitive Development at Lancaster University used online questionnaires to get data from 131 parents of children aged 6-36 months.

The parents were asked a series of questions about the amount of time on a typical day their children spend watching TV, using devices such as smart phones or tablets, or either reading or having stories read to them.

They were also asked to complete the UK Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) – a detailed checklist of words from different categories such as animals, household items and food and drink which their children were able to say and understand.

Of the families surveyed, 99 per cent of children were read to daily, 82 per cent watched television and 49 per cent used mobile touchscreen devices daily.

The researchers found a positive relationship between the amount of time children spent reading or being read to and their vocabulary size, but time spent watching television or using mobile devices had no relationship – as this reading time was not offset by time in front of screens.

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The research also involved Professor Gert Westermann, LuCiD Co-Investigator and Professor of Psychology at Lancaster University.

This article is adapted from a press release published by Lancaster University on 29 August 2017. 

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