New research has found that nearly half of three and four year olds have their own tablet device to use.

The research, conducted by Childwise, found that the majority of children this age are competent technology users and can open apps, adjust volume, turn devices on and off and take pictures.

One in three children under five has their own tablet, up from one in four last year. But as tablet use has increased, figures show that access to mobile phones has decreased as a result. The findings are based on interviews with over 1,000 parents of children aged between six months and four years.

“Pre-schoolers and their parents have rapidly adopted the tablet computer,” comments Jenny Ehren, Childwise research manager. “It has quickly emerged as a most-wanted device for children, even among the very young – and parents have encouraged this, considering tablets and the games and apps on them, a great way to keep small children entertained and provide a learning benefit.”

While many parents are comfortable with the amount of time their child spends watching video content each day, a significant number are less enthusiastic.

As the particular effects of early electronic usage have not yet been found, there is no reliable way of determining the impact on development in children who are using mobile devices regularly from a young age.

Whilst these devices can be a useful learning tool, it is beneficial to limit children’s reliance on them and only allow a set access period each day. Ideally, this time should be spent using educational apps instead of watching programmes, which is what they are currently most commonly used for.

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