Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may affect the child’s behaviour in early years

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Jean Golding, University of Bristol

In the early 1960s, thousands of babies were born with malformed limbs as a result of their mother taking thalidomide – a drug used to treat morning sickness. The tragedy rocked the medical establishment and made doctors wonder what other drugs might have foetus-harming effects. Continue reading

Why GPs and patients need to talk more openly about death

Hospitals have a role to play too.
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Lucy Pocock, University of Bristol

Dealing with death is part of the job description for all doctors. For those working in general practice, this often means planning ahead, with GPs encouraged to keep a register of patients thought to be in the last year of their life. Continue reading

Remembering Why We Ride – putting a positive spin on the story of cycling

Before Channel 5 aired their broadcast Cyclists: Scourge of the Roads?, described by The Guardian’s Peter Walker as ‘the worst, most scaremongering, inaccurate, downright irresponsible programme on cycling’, I’d already conducted a brief analysis of tabloid coverage of cycling to confirm what I and many other cyclists have felt for a long time: that we get a lot of bad press. Continue reading

E-cigarettes: why I’m optimistic they will stub smoking out for good

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Jasmine Khouja, University of Bristol

There are over a billion smokers across the world – a habit which causes more than 7m deaths per year. We have known that smoking kills for decades, but this simple fact has not been enough to persuade every smoker to quit. Continue reading

Care under the Rainbow Launch Event on IDAHOT Day 17th May 2019

Introducing a new learning resource for creating inclusive care home environments for older LGBT+ residents.

By Dr Wenjing Zhang and Dr Paul Willis, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.

17th May 2019 marks IDAHOT Day – International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. This is a significant day for a number of reasons. For LGBT+ groups and organisations it’s about recognising and speaking out against the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and all other people who belong to sexual and gender minority groups around the world. Continue reading

Children with eczema: the link to food allergies is not clear cut

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Matthew Ridd, University of Bristol and Robert Boyle, Imperial College London

Around one in five children have eczema – and even mild cases can have a big impact on both the child and their family. For many, symptoms will come and go before they start primary school, but for others it can indicate the beginning of a genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma (or both). Continue reading

Women face enough barriers to breastfeeding — incorrect medication advice should not be one of them

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New research has found that mothers may be forgoing medication they need in order to breastfeed their babies.
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Amy Brown, Swansea University; Gretel Finch, University of Bristol, and Heather Trickey, Cardiff University

The challenges many new mothers overcome to breastfeed their babies are well documented. Despite a public health system in the UK that promotes breastfeeding, many do not have access to the support that enables them to do it. Every day, services are being cut, public attitudes are negative, and this is exacerbated by a culture that does not really understand how breastfeeding works and how best to support it. Continue reading

How renting could affect your health

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Amy Clair, University of Essex and Amanda Hughes, University of Bristol

Our homes play a number of vital roles in our lives. They are where we rest, spend time with friends and family, and can be most ourselves. Given this central role it is not surprising that researchers have found a number of important relationships between the homes we live in and our health. 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.

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