In Summary

  • New research from Swinburne has found that the skills children learn on touchscreen apps can be transferred to the physical version of the same activity
  • This research was conducted in Swinburne's BabyLab

Parents can feel less guilty next time they put an iPad down in front of their child. New research has found that the skills children learn on touchscreen apps can be transferred to the physical version of the same activity.

The research, conducted by Swinburne University of Technology, found that children aged between 4-6 years could spend time learning a specific 2D skill on an app or game, such as chess, and then transfer this to the 3D, physical version of the same game with no issues.

Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jordy Kaufman, says the research highlighted the important role that games on touchscreen devices can have on a child’s development.

‘Our research suggests that these kinds of “replacement activities” can work just as well as the real thing, as kids seamlessly transferred what they learnt on the iPad to the physical versions,’ Dr Kaufman says.

The study, which asked fifty children to attempt to complete the Tower of Hanoi puzzle in its standard, 3D form as well as its 2D touchscreen version, compared how the skills transferred across.

‘There was no evidence that children who practiced using the 3D puzzle performed any better on the final 3D trial than children who practiced using the 2D model,’ Dr Joanne Tarasuik, the other lead researcher says.

The research also found that the learning benefits of touchscreen practice did not require an initial exposure to the 3D version of the skill or puzzle.

‘Children could have never been exposed to a game of chess before. But if they learn to play it on a touch screen device then they may have no difficulty playing a physical version of the game,’ Dr Tarasuik says.

The research was conducted in Swinburne’s BabyLab, a facility within Swinburne’s Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre that explores the cognitive, social and brain development in infants and young children. PhD student Brittany Huber was also instrumental in this research study.