Computers make kids dumb

A study of 100,000 pupils in 31 countries around the world has concluded that using computers makes kids dumb. Avoiding PCs in the classroom and at home improved the literacy and numeracy of the children studied.

The UK’s Royal Economic Society finds no ground for the correlation that politicans make between IT use and education. The authors, Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University, used the PISA tests to measure the skills of 100,000 15 year-olds. When social factors were taken into account, PC literacy was no more valuable than ability to use a telephone or the internet, the study discovered.

“Holding other family characteristics constant, students perform significantly worse if they have computers at home,” the authors conclude. By contrast, children with access to 500 books in their homes performed better. The negative correlation, the researchers explain, is because children with computers neglect their homework more.
The Royal Society’s quantitative approach mirrors concerned raised by qualitative analysis of technology in education. Children are now awash with “facts”, but don’t know what to do with them.

Schoolchildren are developing a “problem-solving deficit disorder”, and losing the ability to analyze. A better way, experts insist, is to encourage creativity. And the best remedy for this is to turn off the computer and stimulate childrens’ imaginations.

The value of creativity, imagination and critical thinking over “information” access is self-evident, you’d think. But an alliance of convenience between technology vendors, who want to stuff more unwanted computers into classrooms, lazy governments, for whom IT is a way of appearing “modern” while cutting education budgets, ensures the issue doesn’t stay in the headlines for very long.

In the US, programs designed to connect schools to the internet have become a pork barrel for questionable sales tactics from the some of the industry’s biggest vendors.

“Technology is not destiny, its design and use flow from human choices” the US Alliance For Childhood wrote in its critical report Tech Tonic: Towards A New Literacy last September. This was a follow-up to the Alliance’s scathing report Fools Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood.

“The pervasive use of advanced technologies and their low cost have reduced hands-on experiences for children, including the simple but overwhelmingly rewarding experience of taking things apart and putting them back together. Without this, technology becomes a mystery, leading to a perspective that might well be called “magic consciousness,” observe the Alliance for Childhood authors.
“This consciousness is a perversion of the magical enchantment that naturally pervades a child’s world and is too quickly destroyed by adult insistence on viewing the world mechanically.”

Long distance information
A few grown-ups would benefit from following the recommendations too. For years technology-advocates have made the lazy equation that “information” is “power” – but “information”, we’re belatedly discovering, doesn’t in itself mean anything. As anyone who’s watched the quality of online discussions deteriorate over the past ten years, “problem-solving deficit disorder” isn’t entirely confined to schoolchildren. Many of today’s debaters prefer “Fisking” – line-by-line rebuttals where facts are dropped like radar chaff – to rational debate or building a coherent argument.

During the 2004 Presidential TV debate season, technophiles advocated extending this approach to real-time “fact checking” of the candidates. But not all facts have equal value. And neither do they necessarily supply context – a blizzard of facts obscures the moral choices a voter weighs in making his decision.
For people who consider “facts” are an adequate substitute for knowledge, Google and the internet couldn’t get here quickly enough.

Is TV Turning Your Child Into a Bully?
Just because a TV show or movie is made for kids, doesn’t mean it’s good for them, explained the lead researcher of a study that linked television to aggressive behavior in children. The study revealed that younger children who watch television are more likely to become bullies, mainly due to the increasingly violent nature of animated videos and cartoons.

Researchers compared existing data from a national study of more than 1,250 4-year-olds to follow-up reports with their mothers later on (between ages 6-11), specifically to learn if their kids had become crueler to others or had indeed become bullies.

The numbers tallied are shocking:
Four-year-olds were 25 percent more likely to become bullies if they watched merely the average daily amount of television—3.5 hours.

Kids who watched eight hours of TV a day were 200 percent more likely to become bullies.
Thirteen percent of the kids surveyed eventually became bullies.

Violent animated shows are causing kids to become “desensitized” to violence. Therefore, researchers suggested parents follow the American Academy of Pediatric guidelines, which recommend no TV for children under 2 and no more than two hours of viewing time a day for older kids.

Aside from bullying, other potential negative influences of watching too much TV include obesity, inattention and other types of aggression.

A Ray of Hope
Yet unlike other studies that focus on TV viewing, researchers of this study found that in addition to eliminating or severely limiting viewing time, kids were almost one-third less likely to become bullies if they received:
Cognitive stimulation—exposing children to new ideas by reading aloud to them or taking trips to museums.
Emotional support from their parents—talking regularly as well as eating meals together.

These findings add fuel to the fire of a Kaiser Family Foundation study that exposed some startling numbers about the amount of time kids spend in front of the television. It’s not only to watch mind-numbing fare filled with fast-food commercials but also to play video games and eat their meals.

And just like the study above points out, the Kaiser study highlighted the fact that children’s exposure to violent video games and TV has been found to encourage aggression.

In fact, a number of studies have proved time and time again how detrimental TV’s influence is on your child: One study that involved more than 700 families found that 14-year-old boys who watched relatively more television were more likely to have assaulted someone or committed any serious act of aggression by the time they were 22 years old. A similar pattern was found among females, but the relationship was much weaker.

Another study found that violence in the media can have a profound effect on the behavior of children and teens and that TV violence was associated with aggression among children as young as 4 years.

Researchers involved in another study suggested physicians and parents understand that popular video games may be a source of exposure to violence and other unexpected content for children and that games may reward the players for violent actions.

Preschoolers who watch television violence and play violent video games are more likely to show high levels of aggression and antisocial behavior than those not exposed, according to another study.

Take a Proactive Step Now!
Many of us fail to appreciate the enormous influence we have on our children’s lives. Kids are easy and impressionable targets; therefore, it’s up to us to step in and place some serious limitations on the amount of time they are allowed to watch TV.

All it takes is one simple step: Turn off the television (or video games) and encourage your kids to take part in a productive activity like physically active play or reading. There are far too many things to do in life – places to visit, books to read, sports to play—to waste so much of your life sitting in front of a box.