Dr Aric Sigman, psychologist and author of Remotely Controlled: How Television is Damaging Our Lives and The Spoilt Generation is concerned that exposing children as young as 22 months to computers and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) actually impinges on their development rather than aids it because it is “subverting the development of children’s cognitive skills”.
Based the UK, Dr Sigman recently addressed a childcare conference, telling them “there is evidence to show that introducing information and communication technology (ICT) in the early years actually subverts the very skills that government ministers said they want children to develop, such as the ability to pay attention for sustained periods.”
In Australia it is almost a year since the Rudd government made laptops available to Australian school children. During that time there has been growing concern that their use is distracting students and making them under perform in exams.
Helen Walton from the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizen’s Association said “anything that offers children the opportunity to be distracted, they will be”.
Many young people already suffer from a poor attention span which in turn makes it difficult for them to listen to a teacher or follow through on even the simplest of tasks. It is feared that exposure to computers will be harmful to young children’s under developed brains.
“The big problems we are seeing now with children who do not read, or who find it difficult to pay attention to the teacher, or to communicate, are down to attention damage that we are finding in all age groups.”
Dr Sigman suggests that computers should “be introduced and used judiciously at much later ages – ideally at least age nine – or it can subvert the development of the cognitive skills and curiosity it was intended to foster and enhance,”
By the age of nine years old, computers can be used very effectively to help children’s learning, social development and health. A number of studies in the US show that age-appropriate software can help language development.