Technology-savvy children ‘face struggle with pens and pencils’

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Children are struggling to learn simple tasks such as using a pen or pencil after being exposed to an “overwhelming” amount of technology before they start school, researchers have warned.

The study has found that pre-schoolers need to be protected from a “technological creep” which has seen items such as tablets increasingly used in nursery schools.

A poll conducted by the website daynurseries.co.uk found that just one in four people think that children benefit from technology being used in nurseries.

Just 26 per cent of the 806 individuals surveyed claimed that it was beneficial for youngsters to use information and communication technology (ICT) in their early years.

Davina Ludlow, the director of daynurseries.co.uk, an online guide to nurseries, said: “Children are increasingly exposed to an overwhelming amount of technology at an early age.”

She said she was concerned that tablet computers are “displacing the traditional methods of learning and play activities”.

“This poll shows that the majority of people clearly want to see early education and childhood play protected from this technological creep.”

Sue Palmer, literacy expert and author, said: “I think what children really need up to the age of seven is real life in real space and real time, which means three dimensional experiences.

“We already have problems with children not being able to hold a pen or pencil. But we are giving our kids instant gratification all the time with ICT and it makes it harder for them to persevere with something that takes a while to learn.”

Early years education, often dubbed the “nappy curriculum” has recently been revamped.

Under the new system, introduced last September, children are expected to meet 17 early learning goals, focusing on areas including communication and language, physical skills, and personal, social and emotional development.

One of these goals is that under-fives should be able to recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as the home and school, and be able to select and use technology for specific purposes.

Official figures published last month showed that almost half of boys struggle to write simple stories, lists or a letter to Santa at age five.

The statistics, which show how well young children are doing in areas such as literacy, maths and physical development before they start formal schooling, showed a clear gender gap with girls ahead of their male classmates.

Just 54 per cent of boys achieved at least the expected standard in writing, the statistics show, compared with seven in 10 of girls.

In reading, which includes being able to use cues such as pictures to read and understand basic sentences, just under two-thirds – 65 per cent – of boys met the expected standard, along with three-quarters (76 per cent) of girls.

In the area of maths, over a third (35 per cent) of five-year-old boys were not able to count to 20, or do simple adding and subtracting, compared with 28 per cent of girls.

Daynurseries.co.uk said one academic, John Siraj-Blatchford, honorary professor at the University of Swansea centre for child research, had argued that there was substantial evidence for using ICT in early childhood.