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Is computer technology harming younger children?

It’s hard to imagine keeping young children away from computers. Most kids are born into households where using a computer or a laptop is an integral part of daily life. These days, kids learn how to handle a mouse almost before they can walk.

However, a leading British psychologist recently called for a ban on children under the age of nine using computers because the technology is damaging their brains.

“There is evidence to show that introducing information and communication technology in the early years actually subverts the very skills that children need to develop, such as the ability to pay attention for long periods,” said Dr. Sigman, addressing a UK conference of childcare specialists. “There is a conflict between multitasking and sustained attention. These things cannot and should not be developed at the same time.”

Dr. Sigman’s views are in direct opposition to the views of many other childcare experts and psychologists. The Early Years Foundation Stage, a government-funded advisory group in his own country, has suggested that children as young as 22 months can be safely introduced to computers to give them a head start on acquiring the skills they will need later in life.

Now, Dr. Sigman says, that advice is “subverting the development of children’s cognitive skills.”

Although Dr. Sigman recognizes that screen technologies such as computers and televisions can be excellent educational tools, he thinks they shouldn’t be introduced until later on in a child’s development. “[Technology] must 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,” said Dr. Sigman.

He cites as evidence “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”. He suggests that “attention damage” now affects children in all age groups.

As well running contrary to popular beliefs in his home country, Dr. Sigman’s views are also contradicted by research here in the U.S. that shows limited computer time and age-appropriate software can actually help a child’s learning, social development and health.

Dr. Sigman doesn’t deny the ultimate learning benefits of technology; he just wants them introduced to children at a later age.

Are children under the age of 9 adversely impacted by technology? Is technology responsible for “attention damage” as children get older? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

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