Apr 13 2018

Dr Gemma Taylor, Lecturer in Psychology in the School of Health Sciences has scooped a prestigious early career researcher award from the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC).

The New Investigator Grant which is set to be around £234,000 was awarded to Gemma for her project “Investigating the educational potential of touchscreen apps for children’s early vocabulary acquisition.” New Investigator Grants form one element of the ESRC’s support for early career researchers and the scheme is specifically aimed at supporting those looking to make the transition to an independent researcher through managing their first major research project. Gemma will be working with Dr Sarah Norgate (Mentor) and Professor Padraic Monaghan (CI at the University of Lancaster).

Gemma has worked at the University for just over the year and has already received internal recognition, receiving a Vice-Chancellor’s Early Career Research Scholarship August 2017-2018 for research around “Children’s selective imitation of desirable and undesirable actions: The role of digital reinforcement”.

In the main, her research looks at understanding the impact of digital media on children’s cognitive development. A dedicated website will be set up for the project.

This article was originally posted on University of Salford Internal Communications

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Apr 13 2018

WATCHING television or playing with smart phone apps does not have any effect on children’s language development – providing they still spend time reading – researchers have found.

A study led by University of Salford developmental psychologist Dr Gemma Taylor and published in the Journal Of Children And Media, has found that as long as parents or carers spend time reading with young children, and this time is not reduced in place of television or touchscreen devices such as iPads, children’s exposure to this media should have no effect on the size of their vocabulary.

A team of researchers from the University of Salford and the ESRC International Centre for Language and Cognitive Development at Lancaster University used online questionnaires to get data from 131 parents of children aged 6-36 months.

The parents were asked a series of questions about the amount of time their children typically spend watching TV, using devices such as smart phones or tablets, or either reading or having stories read to them.

They were also asked to complete the UK Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) – a detailed checklist of words from different categories such as animals, household items and food and drink – which their children were able to say and understand.

Of the families surveyed, 99 per cent of children were read to daily, 82 per cent watched television and 49 per cent used mobile touchscreen devices daily.

The researchers found a positive relationship between the amount of time children spent reading or being read to and their vocabulary size, but time spent watching television or using mobile devices had no relationship – as this reading time was not offset by time in front of screens.

Dr Taylor said: “Children are now growing up in a digital age surrounded by a wide range of media, and scrolling across the screen of a tablet is as natural for a three-year-old as flicking through a picture book.

“Mobile touchscreen use among children is also increasing, and there is some concern that this is taking the place of time spent between children and parents which is crucial to language development.

“Our findings showed that, in the sample we looked at, the children’s vocabulary size was not affected by time in front of mobile devices, as the parents were still spending time reading with them.

“However, it’s important to note that the sample we looked at was made up of highly educated families, and in order to study this issue more broadly we would need to look at a much larger group of parents.”


This article was originally posted on University of Salford News

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Apr 13 2018

Welcome to the University of Salford Cognitive Development Lab blog page!

Children are growing up in an increasingly digital age, surrounded by digital media in the home, nursery and at school. We are interested in investigating the role of digital media on children’s cognitive development.

We run our studies at our lab in the Allerton building at the University of Salford and at local nurseries.

For more information about our lab please see our website


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