We should beware: ICT is dangerous to developing brains

5th June 2009 at 01:00

In "From ABC to ICT", the Homerton Children's Centre in Cambridge is cited as modelling the use of information technology with early years pupils. Harriet Price, its ICT adviser, is obviously unaware of the latest medical evidence of the adverse effects of ICT on the developing brain.

The Lancet, the Harvard Medical School journal, Neuroscience magazine and the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics report the physiological and cognitive harm done to the young brain by screen viewing itself, regardless of the content.

The research, including a 26-year study, shows that prolonged television and computer viewing stunts the frontal lobe and "rewires" the growing brain. It shortens the attention span, leading to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and learning difficulties.

The literacy and numeracy requirements of the early years foundation stage - which are integral to that stage - are delivered by ICT. This effectively turns toddlers into ICT addicts. Its guidelines suggest showing a 22-month-old how to turn a computer on and off. Do we really want to promote a lifelong dependency on screens?

At Tsinghua University in Beijing, computers are banned for first-year students in an attempt to break their addiction.

Why is this Government fulfilling Bill Gates' greedy dream of one child, one computer?

ICT for young children is patently inappropriate. Young children need songs, stories, nature and vast tracts of uninterrupted playtime, inside and outside. They do not need to be immobilised in front of screens: they need to move, run and climb.

Beverley Hughes, the former children's minister, said that children enjoy playing with computers. Yes, and they might enjoy playing with loaded guns and eating chocolate-covered arsenic. That doesn't mean we give these things to them.

If "embedding ICT in an early years setting can be relatively easy", it is also relatively easy for children to get into porn sites (merely internet search "photography") and sites that encourage anorexia and suicide. Is this really what we want for young children?

Gabriel Millar, Teacher and therapist, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

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