This opportunity is now closed.

Self-funded MRes opportunity

Digital natives: Young children and their interactions with digital technology

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


Learning in the early years has significant impact on future achievement and later life chances (Williams et al., 2003). In addition, there is evidence that young children have increasing access to digital technology in the home (OFCOM, 2017). There is current public panic about the impact of this cultural change on child development. However, the evidence-base on the impact of technology on early learning is both scarce and generally of low quality (BPS, 2018).

Therefore, there is significant scope to contribute to a growing body of robust evidence on the impact of technology use on early developmental outcomes. Recent qualitative research by Simms and colleagues has reported that parents use digital technology in the home to scaffold their children’s learning of content that parents may find difficult to explain (Cahoon, Cassidy & Simms, 2017).

This project will build on current research in the School of Psychology to objectively measure (a) how children use digital technology and (b) the influence of digital technology on learning outcomes.

The project will use innovative methods to generate robust evidence in an exciting and emerging field. The main experimental work within this project will involve observational work using recently acquired state-of-the-art eye tracking methods (Tobii Pro Spectrum and Glasses) in the new KidLab facility in the School of Psychology. This study will recruit children and their parents to take part in a series of short experiments that will naturalistically track engagement with digital technology and measure learning from these materials.

British Psychological Society (2018). Changing behaviour: Children, adolescents and screen use. Download from: (last accessed 1st April 2019)

Cahoon, A., Cassidy, T., & Simms, V. (2017). Parents’ views and experiences of the informal and formal Home Numeracy Environment. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 15, 69-79.

OFCOM (2017) . Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2017. Download from: (last accessed 1st April 2019).

Williams, J. Clements, S.,Oleinikova, K. & Tarvin, K. (2003) The Skills for Life survey: A national needs and impact survey of literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. United Kingdom: Department for Education and Skills.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)


This is a self-funded MRes opportunity.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 31 May 2019


Apply Online


Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
Our coastal and riverside campus focussing on science and health

Contact supervisor

Dr Victoria Simms

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