Brexit: how article 50 could be extended to delay UK’s departure from the EU


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Phil Syrpis, University of Bristol

In the aftermath of the crushing defeat of the government’s Brexit plan in the House of Commons, the question on everyone’s lips is “what next?” Opinion is divided: some say the UK is now heading for “no deal”, others for “no Brexit”. Continue reading

Bees and butterflies are under threat from urbanisation – here’s how city-dwellers can help

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All a-flutter.
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Katherine Baldock, University of Bristol

Pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies, are responsible for the reproduction of many flowering plants and help to produce more than three quarters of the world’s crop species. Globally, the value of the services provided by pollinators is estimated at between US$235 billion and US$577 billion. Continue reading

How clever people help societies work together better

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Andis Sofianos, University of Heidelberg; Aldo Rustichini, University of Minnesota, and Eugenio Proto, University of Bristol

What drives people to cooperate with each other? And what characteristics lead a person to do something that will both benefit them, and those around them? Our new research suggests that the answer is intelligence: it is the primary condition for a socially cohesive and cooperative society. Continue reading

Brexit Groundhog Day as EU leaders stand firm in face of British political stalemate

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Nieves Perez-Solorzano, University of Bristol

As the December European Council drew to an end, EU leaders must have felt that they were living their own Brexit Groundhog Day. As has become the norm since the Brexit negotiations began in March 2017, the European Union is faced with a British government in crisis. Continue reading

Touchscreens can benefit toddlers – but it’s worth choosing your child’s apps wisely

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Elena Hoicka, University of Bristol

Young children learn through play. That’s why it’s the basis for early education in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and many other countries around the world.

But with more and more young children now spending a lot of time in front of screens, a big question for many parents is whether time spent on touchscreens is good or bad for a child’s play and development.

Data shows British three- and four-year-olds spend around four hours a day on screen time – including at least one hour on games. And one worry is that screen time leads to poor outcomes for children.

For instance, the more young children watch television, the less sleep they get. There are also moderately higher rates of obesity in young children who watch television on weekdays compared to those children who do not. So one argument is that if children have more screen time, this could also displace the time young children spend playing, and hence learning.

Time well spent?

But that said, some research shows touchscreens have direct benefits for play itself. A study that followed a group of six preschoolers in their homes – covering a total of 17 hours of video footage – found the children showed 15 different types of play when interacting with touchscreen apps. They communicated, explored, and imagined, among other types of play. This suggests using touchscreen apps is play itself.

The children in the study also used apps as the basis for traditional play – for instance, by acting out the Netflix children’s series Paw Patrol in the real world. Research has also shown how apps can benefit preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A study following four children found after playing with an app that encouraged pretend play, three of these children increased how much they pretended to be characters when playing with actual toys. This suggests apps could be used to teach children how to play more generally.

Screen time can be time for learning, too.
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Experimental research also shows playing with apps can have positive benefits on learning. One study showed how a group of four- to six-year-olds played with the Tower of Hanoi task on a touchscreen app. This task involves figuring out how to move a stack of rings from one rod to another without ever putting a larger ring on a smaller ring. After children played the task on the touchscreen app, they were then able to solve the problem with a physical version of the task without any additional time needed. This shows how children can learn through play on a touchscreen app, and transfer that learning to the real world.

Another study found that when preschoolers were given maths and language apps they enjoyed engaging with, their scores on standardised maths and language tests improved. This shows that playing with engaging and fun apps can help children learn some of the fundamentals at school. Even two-year-olds can learn language through apps, with research finding young children learn new words through Skype, but not television.

Play and learning

It seems, then, the relationship between touchscreen apps and play is complex. On the one hand, perhaps playing with apps will displace traditional play, leading to lower levels of activity in young children. But on the other hand, based on the research to date, it seems playing with apps could actually encourage play and learning – provided the apps have appropriate content for this function.

That said, the research in this area is still limited, so our lab is now running studies to find out whether apps show benefits or limitations to children’s play. Anyone around the world with a one- to three-year-old can participate in our longitudinal online survey. And it is hoped that by collecting this data over time, we can not only see if there is a relationship between touchscreens and play, but we can also find out if touchscreen use predicts children’s play long term.

We are also running lab studies in Bristol, England, to see whether playing with touchscreen apps makes two- and three-year-olds more or less likely to play later on – and whether children can learn to play from apps. Parents can find more information and sign up here.

So, for any parents out there who are wondering how to handle screen time with their young children, based on the current research, I would say choose app content that looks like it will help your child play or learn, but be wary of letting your children play with apps for too long, particularly near bed time.


The author is keen to interview children’s app designers, daycare workers, and parents about apps and one- to three-year-olds. If you’re interested in being interviewed, email Elena Hoicka at elena.hoicka@bristol.ac.ukThe Conversation

Elena Hoicka, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COP24: ten years on from Lehman Brothers, we can’t trust finance with the planet

Tomaso Ferrando, University of Bristol

Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008. The investment bank’s collapse was the drop that made the bucket of global finance overflow, starting a decade of foreclosures, bailouts and austerity. Continue reading

Nanny states and grown-up debates on alcohol policy

Reducing arguments to simplistic – even incoherent – claims and accusations is not good for reasoned, public deliberation, says Professor John Coggon

Professor John Coggon, Professor of Law, Bristol University

27 November 2018 – Debates on alcohol policy are necessarily complex and controversial, and a complete consensus on how we should regulate this area will not be achieved. Like other lawful but regulated products, alcohol presents benefits and harms that may be understood from ranging perspectives. Continue reading

Much we can do and even more to learn about COPD

For World COPD Day 2018 and the publication of Life of Breath’s new Policy Report, consultant respiratory physician and honorary senior lecturer at the Academic Respiratory Unit (University of Bristol) Dr James Dodd writes…

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term which includes ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ‘emphysema’, it causes a progressive decline in lung function and health. It is common, effecting 2% of the adult population and is projected to become the 3th leading cause of death in the UK. People with COPD experience breathlessness, cough and wheeze and often suffer with repeated chest infections, these ‘exacerbations’ are the 2nd most common reason for emergency admissions to hospital. Continue reading

Why some people overeat when they’re upset

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Comfort food.
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Laura Wilkinson, Swansea University; Angela Rowe, University of Bristol, and Charlotte Hardman, University of Liverpool

The idea of eating a tub of ice cream to cope with being upset has become a bit cliche. Though some might not need a tub of chocolate swirl to help perk themselves up again, there do seem to be systematic differences in the way that people cope with upsetting events, with some more likely to find solace in food than others. Continue reading

Brexit draft withdrawal agreement – experts react

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Katy Hayward, Queen’s University Belfast; Adrienne Yong, City, University of London; Maria Garcia, University of Bath; Michael Gordon, University of Liverpool; Nauro Campos, Brunel University London, and Phil Syrpis, University of Bristol

A draft agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has been reached between representatives of both sides, alongside an Outline Political Declaration on a future relationship. It remains to be seen whether the British government is able to survive, and gain parliamentary support for the deal. Here, though, academic experts consider what adoption of the 585-page draft Withdrawal Agreement would mean. Continue reading