One-year-olds know how to use iPads: Study

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Published: July 5, 2015 11:50:21 PM

Toddlers as young as one year old are turning tech-savvy and can use a tablet but require help from an adult to access apps, according to a new study.

Toddlers as young as one year old are turning tech-savvy and can use a tablet but require help from an adult to access apps, according to a new study.

University of Iowa researchers studied more than 200 YouTube videos of infants and toddlers using iPads.

By age two, 90 per cent of the children in the videos had a moderate ability to use a tablet, according to Juan Pablo Hourcade, associate professor of computer science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study.

“Just over 50 per cent of 12-to-17-month-old children in the videos had a moderate ability,” Hourcade said.

Hourcade and his colleagues defined “moderate ability” as needing help from an adult to access apps, but being able to use them while displaying some difficulty with basic interactions.

Hourcade said that to his knowledge, other researchers have conducted surveys of the prevalence of tablet use by young children, however, the UI study is the first to study how infants and toddlers are actually using the devices.

He said YouTube enabled his group to conduct the research without having to ask infants and toddlers to use tablets, something that some pediatricians discourage.

“On the other hand, we know that infants and toddlers are using iPads and other devices because we’ve seen the videos recorded by their parents, and surveys confirm it is happening. It’s happened really quickly – before we could get out and arrange for more conventional studies,” he said.

Hourcade acknowledged the drawbacks of using unsolicited YouTube videos, such as not knowing the exact ages of the children pictured and that the children pictured were selected by their caregivers and may not be representative of the larger society.

However, he said the researchers were able to estimate the ages of the children (two-thirds of the videos included the age) and observe a clear progression of successful performance linked to age that is consistent with developmental milestones.

“One of the biggest differences we found is that when children turn one year old, they switch from using both hands and all their fingers to interact with the tablet to using an index finger – which is what adults do,” he said.

He said he hopes that the study and others that follow will influence the development of apps that encourage interactive education for infants and toddlers.

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