The researchers warn that too much interaction with screens could damage a child's development

Toddlers increasingly adept with touchscreen devices

New research has shown that children as young as two years old are increasingly adept at using touchscreen displays with the ability to swipe, unlock and actively search for features on smartphones and tablets.

In a questionnaire sent to 82 parents about how their children use touchscreens, nearly two thirds (64 per cent) said their child actively searched for features on touchscreen devices. In addition, half of the parents surveyed said their child was capable of unlocking the device on their own.

The average age of the toddlers with the ability to perform these skills was 24 months, while the average age for identifying and using specific touchscreen features was 25 months - almost three out of four (72 per cent) parents felt their child was capable of this.

The survey was targeted at parents of children aged between 12 months and three years and just over half were boys.

The researchers behind the study said that the technology might have a potential role in childhood developmental assessment.

The report said: "Interactive touchscreen applications offer a level of engagement not previously experienced with other forms of media and are more akin to traditional play.

"This opens up the potential application of these devices for both assessment of development and early intervention in high-risk children."

It also noted that there were still issues about regulating the quality of the apps on the phone which cannot be overlooked.

"Many applications designed for infants and toddlers already exist, but there is no regulation of their quality, educational value or safety.

"Some of the issues that arise with passive watching of television still apply."

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended in the past that screen time be discouraged in children under the age of two on the grounds that it risked exposure to unsuitable material and discouraged playing which is considered important in a child’s development.

These recommendations were made before the advent of touchscreen media, which might have a different impact on the developing brains of toddlers, suggest the researchers.

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