Dr Sonia Livingstone, renowned academic and online safety consultant, has turned her attention to early years children and their digital play. At Guardians of Ancora, we’ve become used to statistics about how many children own tablets and how long they spend with screens, every day. It’s still striking, though, to read Livingstone’s report which shows that (in the UK), 25% of children aged 0–2 years and 36 per cent of children aged 3–5 own a tablet, with the latter using them for more than an hour a day.
To use tablet devices, these children are learning to master skills early. Some 44% of children between 0 and 2 years can trace a shape with their finger on a device and 43% can operate commands via tapping: they are becoming competent operators quickly and early. Around 75% of children in the 3–5 age range can open apps, 73% can draw and 61 per cent can take photos using their device.
Parents, Livingstone shows, are not reluctant to adopt digital devices for their families, but they are often concerned about whether they know what is good for their child. Some 29% of parents do not know if the content of an app is of good quality, 27% don’t know whether it is suitable for their child and 28% are concerned their child is spending too long with a screen. Livingstone rounds up the discussion with positive notes about apps promoting creativity and exploration. She concludes: ‘The technology and play report gives little insight into contexts of use … But it does say, importantly, that for the most part little children are using tablets with parents or other family members, presumably therefore as part of lively domestic interactions around the screen (which is what child psychologists would generally favour).’