Technobabies: the use of technology by children aged 0-3 years

There has been a huge rise in personal and professional ownership of mobile digital devices in the last few years and much concern about the detrimental impact this may have on children’s development. This project aims to understand how the very youngest children (zero -three year olds) are using touchscreen technology in homes and Early Years settings in the UK and in a range of countries around the world. 


Research Aims

  • To understand how 0-3s use touchscreen technology in the home and in Early Years settings
  • To compare how children use this technology in the UK with how they use it in other countries
  • To give voice to parental perspectives about their 0-3s use of touchscreens
  • To share best practice among Early Years’ practitioners around using touchscreen technology in settings
  • To develop guidelines for advising on safe and developmentally use of touchscreen technology in home and settings for children aged three and under

Method of Research

The first phase of the research involved an on-line survey for parents of children aged 0-3 in the UK asking for their experiences, beliefs and concerns around their young children’s use of touchscreen technology in the home. This survey was then rolled out to partner researchers in universities in Sweden, Australia, Greece, Norway and Japan and the responses were collated and compared in the analysis.

The second phase of the project involves an on-line survey for Early Years’ practitioners in the UK and follow up focus group interviews with groups of practitioners and setting managers/owners around the use of technology with 0-3 year olds. This phase of the project was developed by our partner researcher in Macquarie University in Sydney and is also being carried out by colleagues in Norway and Greece. 


We found that parents in all the participating countries have many similar concerns around their 0-3s use of touchscreen technology such as smartphones and iPads. For example, they worry about the possible detrimental impact on their children’s attention span, eyesight and communication skills. Parents also highlight many of the same advantages to the use of such technology including its role in entertaining and distracting their children and the educational and creative benefits from certain apps.

The second phase of the project on the use of touchscreen technology by 0-3s in Early Years settings is still on-going and the findings will be published later this year.

Application of Research

The findings of the parental survey have been used as a basis for recommendations for further research in the area and have been published and presented to professional and academic audiences.

The findings of the second phase of the study will be used as a basis for recommendations and practitioner training for good practice in the use of touchscreen technology with 0-3s in Early Years settings.

Project publications

O’Connor, J. and Fotakopoulou, O. (2016) A threat to early childhood innocence or the future of learning? Parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen technology by 0–3 year olds in the UK. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 17(2).

O’Connor, J. (2017) ‘0-3s and technology’. In Arnott, L. (2017) Digital Technologies and Learning in the Early Years. London: SAGE.

O’Connor, J., Fotakopoulou, O., Hatzigianni, M and Fridberg, M. (2018) ‘Parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen technology by 0-3 year olds in the UK, Sweden, Australia and Greece’. In Palaiologou, I. and Gray, C. (Eds) (2018 forthcoming) Digital Practices in Early Childhood Education: An International Perspective. London: SAGE