Toddlers on the net: When should you get your child a PC?

by Anita Devasahayam

Children have become the new target of Internet pushers. Parents mesmerised by slick advertising campaigns, and not wanting their kids to be left behind, are taking the bait. But when is it the right time to introduce computers to children? And does the technology really provide them greater opportunities to be creative?

Educators are beginning to question the drive to get children on computers and on the Net at an early age — even before they can write, spell or do arithmetic. American educational psychologist Jane M Healy, PhD, in her eye-opening book: Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds — For Better And Worse points out that computers, used in the wrong way, can actually hinder a child’s educational development.

With 35 years experience in teaching, Healy, a former tech-pusher, made an about-turn after three-years of exhaustive research in hundreds of schools across the United States. According to her findings, children under seven don’t really need to be exposed to computers at all as it affects their brains and physical health. “The brain undergoes certain ‘critical’ or ’sensitive’ periods in both childhood and adolescence, when learning environments exert special kinds of effects and when certain types of activities and stimulation are most appropriate and necessary for the brain to reach its potential. If we waste or subvert these developmental windows, the losses may be irrecoverable,” writes Healy.

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