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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


How to prevent harmful effects of computer on your children

Today, you can find computers in almost every household. And computer has been introduced into the early childhood education programs and elementary schools at the national level. As a parent, how do you utilize the computer on your children? Do you know the potential hazards of computers?

When parents were asked why they used computers with their children at home, the most frequent response was "helping in learning" followed by "important in today's society". While it is true that computers can be used in developmentally appropriate ways beneficial to children, but they can also be misused. How? Here are some potential harm:

Programs content and age-appropriate
Many parents can mentioned the names of their children's favorite computer software, but they didn't necessarily know much about the programs' content. Another mistake is off-the-shelf programs chosen were not age-appropriate to their children. Therefore, parent has to screen the computer software before presenting them to their children. They have to ensure the computer programs for young children are supposed to encourage dialogue and interaction instead of just pointing, clicking and moving a mouse. They have to ask questions such as: What is the content? Have the software producers tested the content for age appropriateness?

Time with computers
Some parents tend to use computer (and TV) as a babysitter. When this happen, your children could be spending a lot of time with computer. As a result, they have high potential of trouble with social interaction in the long run and are harder to engage in more traditional play and reading. Not to mention about the physical consequences of children staying in front of the computer at very young ages. One guideline is to limit young children's time with computers (and TV). Generally, 30 minutes a day on the computer is reasonable for 2-3 year olds. Most importantly, accompany your child while at the computer to help and discuss what the child is seeing or making happen on the screen.

Limitation of Computer
There is no doubt about many useful computer programs that your children can learn a lot from. However, a computer is a tool, just like a book, a pencil or a television, which can be used in an appropriate ways that beneficial to children but it has certain limitations that cannot be ignored. Computer programs today often do so much that they require less work on the part of the child. As they click on the mouse, these stimulated experiences may not help the children to learn especially in the areas of pretend play and the development of symbolic thinking. Children can learn important concepts through everyday, real-life experiences than using computer. For example, categorizing big and small as you compare the sizes of the toys when they are playing.

It is more meaningful and longer-lasting that what the computers could provide. Traditional toys such as shape-sorter allows the children to have 'hands-on' opportunity to improve their fine-motor skills and problem-solving skills. It is certainly a richer experience compared to learning shape using computer.

Computer Games
Do you expose your child to computer games at young age? That was one strong reason how a child will grow up to addict to computer games. When they are exposed to computer games from young, they will tend to be attracted for more graphical and motional intensive games which lead to violent computer games eventually. There were separate studies conducted at Stanford University and Tohoku University in Japan that came to the same conclusion. The studies indicated playing computer games were halting the process of brain development which essentially causing brain damage. In addition, computer game playing appeared to increase children' aggressive behavior and affecting their ability to control potential anti-social element of their behavior. Hence, only expose your children to educational programs. Companies such as 'The Learning Company' and 'Knowledge Adventure' have developed excellent programs for baby and toddlers.

"Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby and Toddler"

"JumpStart Toddlers and My Learning Scrapbook"

Computers are redefining how we gain knowledge and the impact of computers has changed our daily lives. We have to acknowledge these changes. However, research has shown that computers supplement and DO NOT replace other highly valued early childhood activities and materials, such as art, blocks, sand, water, books and dramatic play. The growing use of computers demands better monitoring. Parents should make sure computers are used to their children benefit, to develop literacy, cognitive and social skills.


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