Infatuation with ICT is harmful

19th September 2008 at 01:00

There is a fascinating article by Aric Sigman ("Making a handstand", TES magazine, September 12) about the need for hands-on early learning for enhancing cognition later. It is well written and very worrying. The lack of hands-on activity and play in early childhood and early education is apparently leading to very significant (negative) effects in later cognitive development. The cause, according to the studies, appears to be ICT and television. Even if only partly true, the ramifications for computer technology in education are very serious and far-reaching.

Aric Sigman's results don't stand alone. I've read quite a number of other reports questioning the benefits of computer technology in education. A Harvard Medical University study concluded that television viewing was exactly the opposite of what children needed for their development. Other studies have shown that screen viewing heightens attention disorders as well as social disengagement.

Ironically, in the same issue, The TES published its programme for TES Education 2008, the childcare and education show that takes place in London on October 10-11. It seems to extol computer technology in education. ICT use with pre-school children has even become part of compulsory goals within the new early years foundation stage.

Why the non-questioning infatuation with ICT? Is it worth noting the results of another study which showed that early exposure to computer technology can lead to a significant conditioning for even greater viewing in teenage years and beyond? And that when results indicate most children already experience more hours of screen viewing than school attendance by the time they leave school.

If even just a part of the studies questioning the value of computer technology in early education are true, it should be urgent cause for the statutory ICT requirements to be removed from the early years foundation stage. A precautionary approach is needed. Do we really want to take the risk of forcing children to do something which may have a negative impact on their development?

Richard Brinton, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

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