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How your child learns language from touchscreen apps

Monday 7 January 2019

FROM Minecraft to Toca Kitchen, there are no shortage of apps for children.

But for the discerning parent, it’s a tough labour of love to separate the educational ones from the merely distracting.

A University of Salford study aims to find out how much young children really learn from so-called ‘educational apps’ and reassure parents their offspring are coming to more good than harm on screen.

A team from the Cognitive Development lab under Joanna Kolak and Dr Gemma Taylor are exploring how children aged 2 - 4 learn language from educational touchscreen apps.


Hundreds are children are putting on special glasses tracking their eye movement and allowing researchers to track their tablet use in detail.

Joanna says: “Our research will help to identify whether touchscreen apps can benefit children’s learning. We want to help parents make better choices for their children’s use of digital media.

“We are inviting parents and children to take part in our fun games in a child-friendly room full of toys with some space for parents to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while we tell them about the study.

"My son loved taking part in the lab study. It was a fun and interactive experience and we're looking forward to a return visit" - Parvinder, mum of 2 year- old participant

“Children play on our specially-designed word learning app and do some fun language-based activities with us. The study takes approximately 45 minutes together with short breaks between the activities.

Children visiting to date have had lots of fun with the games.

"Taking part was really good fun, my daughter especially like at the toys and interacting with Joanna, who was really good with her and quickly put her at ease. It was interesting for me to watch and I was very impressed by how professionally  the work was conducted. I would highly recommend; it;s a great opportunity to contribute to important research and for the little ones to explore play in different surroundings." - Kirstine, mum of 2 year-old participant

The 3-year study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

If you have a child aged 2 – 4 and would like to visit us in the lab or get more information about the study, please get in touch:

Find out more

Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

0161 295 6895