Are Computers Harmful to Kids?

A formal response to the "Alliance for Childhood"


The "Alliance for Childhood," a coalition claiming to focus on issues related to children's health and development, has recently called for a moratorium on further introduction of computers in early childhood and elementary education. The Alliance's complete position statement on computers and children can be found at Obviously, The Editors of Children's Software Revue have something to say about all this. Following is our response submitted to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), another organization interested in the welfare of children.

What an interesting time it is. On one hand, we have a "coalition" calling for a ban on the use of computers with children. On the other hand, the 2000 Research Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools, published by the software industry ( profiles more than 50 independent studies that show a positive relationship between computers and student achievement. The Alliance claims only one such study exists. Interesting.

The Alliance alleges that computers cause physical harm to children. Repetitive stress injuries (RSI), for instance, are a group of conditions generally caused by placing too much stress on a joint, and they vary in type and severity. RSI in kids may occur from heavy computer or video game use, but they are also caused by playing musical instruments, and by the repetitive motion of sports such as tennis. Shall we take away the violins and the tennis rackets, too?

The Alliance also claims that computers cause eyestrain. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, working on computers will not harm your eyes. Eyestrain or fatigue can result from excessive time spent looking at the computer screen, but no harm is done to the eyes. The Academy recommends taking breaks while using the computer. So do we.

Common sense is what we need-- not a moratorium. The way we see it, the computer is simply another material in a child's day; to be used in balance alongside traditional materials like books, paint, clay, paper and markers. Some computer activities support a child's development, while others are a waste of time and money. Children are incredibly adept at telling us which is which. We just need to learn to watch them.

We think that decisions about any learning material should always be made by an adult who knows the children on a day-to-day basis and considers their multifaceted needs. These decisions about technology should not be made by attention-seeking groups who want to throw away the good with the bad. Rather than a moratorium, we'd like to see a redirection of energy and funding into teacher training, quality software and appropriate staffing to make full use of technology's potential.

Respectfully, The Staff of Children's Software Revue


Where to Find Research that Supports the Use of Technology With Young Children
Technology & Young Children: A Project of the NAEYC Technology Caucus is a new web site with the mission to lead discussions, share research and information and demonstrate best practices regarding technology so it can be used to benefit children aged birth through eight years. We are proud to participate in this group.

NAEYC Position Statement on Children and Technology. Here's some rather dated evidence of research examining the effect of computers on learning that makes some good reading. You can download the document as a PDF if you like. A better source of discussion is the Caucus web site (referenced above).

The 2000 Research Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools profiles more than 50 independent studies that show a positive relationship between computers and student achievement. Keep in mind that this report is sponsored by the software industry, so it only selects studies that show a positive relationships between the use of technology and student achievement.

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