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Computer Addiction

Many families are experiencing a new kind of addiction that is the product of the computer age.

A Putney mother tells of how her son will come home from school and immediately rush to his bedroom to continue with his Playstation. ‘It seems to obsess him,’ says his mother. ‘I have had to ration out the time he plays on it. He can get almost violent about it and it is the cause of many rows – it seems to invade his mind in a way that I had never realised was possible. My husband and I have taken control of his computer but we are now worried about how our younger son is going to react to his computer. We would like to stop it before it begins as we are very concerned that our younger boy could go the way of Ben, it’s almost like an addiction.’

Experts say that in the worst cases it can lead to a loss of appetite, rejection of school work, rejection of family and friends, and that this can apply to facebook for girls.

More and more families are experiencing this behaviour pattern in their children and few are confident that they know how to deal with it. But there is hope on the horizon. John Siraj-Blatchford, an honorary professor at Swansea University is leading a technology project to enhance IT play in the very young. The idea is that instead of the lure of the screen being resisted, it is harnessed to develop creative and cooperative learning.

‘Much educational software is unsuitable for young children. There’s a lot of gaming software that encourages solitary play’ says Professor Siraj-Blatchford. ‘What children need at a young age is sustained shared thinking. Ironically as the software seems to be improving there seems to be a loss of interaction between adults and children.’

Most developers want to make software that children can operate on their own at a younger and younger age. This is the complete opposite to what is needed. It is recognised that children who spend more than 2 hours in front of a screen per day can suffer psychological difficulties. However there is also evidence to suggest that screen time can enhance children’s learning if used appropriately.

Professor Siraj-Blatchford’s research project -  Supporting Playful Learning with Information and Communications Technology in the Early Years (SPLICT) is exploring ways to enhance the use of computer technology for young children so that parents and teachers guide young minds in what is still an unknown area.

4 Easy Tips

  • Encourage collaboration. Webcams allow children to follow another’s instructions
  • Choose applications that are transparent and simple to use
  • Avoid applications containing violence or stereotyping
  • 3 year olds should not use a desktop computer for more than 20 minutes
Computer addiction in children