Modern technologies such as tablets, electronic toys, and other screen devices have had an adverse effect on children’s mobility, which in turn affects their ability to learn in class, new research has revealed.

According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Loughborough, a “concerning number” of today’s four-year-olds are not physically ready to start school.

As reported by the Independent, early-years specialists monitoring school children found that a higher proportion have been experiencing problems with their balance and coordination than previously thought. Staff questioned by researchers agreed that there has been a noticeable decrease in children’s mobility in the last three to six years.

The reason for this, the study says, is partly down to modern children being less active compared with previous decades, as movements associated with play and development have been reduced by the advent of screen devices being used as toys for children.

Tests that were carried out to assess Foundation Stage children’s physical development at the beginning of the first school year revealed that almost a third of the school children were deemed to be “of concern” regarding their lack of motor skills and reflexes.

The leader of the study, Dr Rebecca Duncombe, said that the lack of basic physical competence is reflected throughout the school day:

“A child’s physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading – all skills essential for school.”

Dr Duncombe also cites a 2014 survey by Mothercare that found that quarter of the parents surveyed said their children spent less than half an hour a week playing outside.

She continued in the report:

“Our research shows that not only are children starting school less physically ready than ever before, but that teachers are noticing this change and its impact in the classroom.”

As reported by Science Daily, the tests carried out in the research have shown that up to 30 per cent of children are starting school with symptoms that are usually associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD.

The study does give suggestions as to how the effects of modern children’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles can be countered. These include the use of initiatives such as the Movement for Learning programme, which is “designed to provide a daily dose of the movement that children may have missed out on earlier in life, such as tummy time, crawling, opportunities to balance, jump, hop and play ball games.”

The programme, which had been tested during the 2015-16 academic year, has shown positive effects on children’s handwriting ability, as well as their general reading skills and ability to follow instructions.

Though the study does indicate that child mobility is an increasing concern, Movement for Learning programme leader Professor Pat Preedy said many problems are “easily remedied” with more physical activity at school and home, the Daily Mail reports.

Preedy said:

“Children today are moving less, they’re developing less well and they’re learning less; we need to do something drastic to make sure children now and in the future get the movement they need to develop properly physically, intellectually and emotionally.

“Research shows there is a link between early movement and children’s development and learning.”