Five-year-olds who use technology more have higher literacy scores, study finds

Five-year-olds who use technology more have higher literacy scores, study finds


Five-year-olds who use technology more have higher literacy scores, study finds 1

Five-year-olds in England who shun digital devices have lower literacy scores than children who use technology more regularly, a global study has found.

Some screen time can have a positive effect on children’s working memory and literacy, according to a Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report.

However, children who used electronic devices all the time did not see a significant boost to skills.


The study, which compares children in England, the US and Estonia, has found that 39 per cent of five‑year-olds in this country use electronic devices daily.

But parents in England are more likely to read to children five to seven days a week and have a larger number of children’s books at home compared to their peers in the US and Estonia.

Children who never or hardly use digital devices have lower literacy scores than children who did so at least monthly, but less than weekly, after accounting for socio-economic status, the research suggests.

The study also found that five-year-olds from disadvantaged homes in England had lower literacy and numeracy, self-regulation and social-emotional skills than children from advantaged homes.

The gap in learning outcomes between children in advantaged families and those in disadvantaged families was larger in England than in Estonia, but it was not as large as in the US.

On the findings, Caroline Sharp, research director at the National Foundation for Educational Research, said: “The findings suggest that moderate use of computers, tablets and smartphones is appropriate for five-year-olds, providing it does not get in the way of other valuable activities between a parent and their child, such as having a conversation and reading them bedtime stories.

“Moderate use of around one to three times a month was associated with the highest levels of emergent literacy.”

Vicky Ford, children’s minister, said:“We have a world-class education system, and our dedicated early years professionals are making sure children’s learning begins before they arrive at school. This report adds to the evidence about the important benefits of early education on a child’s development.

“We are investing £3.6bn in our early education entitlements in 2020-21 and encouraging parents to support their children’s learning at home before age five.”


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