The previous blog - “Is Technology the Answer to our Education Problems?” - resulted in several astute comments. I will therefore spend more time discussing these ideas in depth:
- How early should children be introduced to computers?
- How much time in front of the computer is healthy at any age?
- The library or the Internet?
- What are the education problems of today?
- Is there a silver bullet?
Today’s entry will concentrate on the first question: how early should children be introduced to computers?
Naturally, as parents, we want our children to excel. So if we see somebody else’s 2-year old bang away on the computer, we will naturally wonder whether it’s time to introduce our own toddler to the wonderful world of colourful pixels.
Most 3- and 4-year olds are capable of working a computer mouse and understanding how to use programs aimed for children: colouring, simple action games, computerised versions of open-the-flap, and so on.
But how early is too early? And how early is too late? Will we stand in the way of our preschooler’s becoming a computer genius if we deny them the opportunity to play with computers?
Many people, especially those who don’t consider themselves computer-literate, are in favour of teaching their children computer skills as early as possible. But the irony is that our attitude as parents really counts here more than early exposure. If we approach the computer with a mixture of fear and awe, chances are, our children will subconsciously mimic our behaviour. If, however, they see us use a computer as though it’s an ordinary tool (a screwdriver or an encyclopaedia), they themselves will feel confident to try it out.
There is research suggesting that preschoolers who use computers are smarter and better prepared for school: http://webcenter.health.webmd.netscape.com/content/Article/88/99862.htm. The same article argues that too much computer time - at any age - may have negative effects.
Another article suggests that children under 3 are too young to use computers because their learning style is mainly kinaesthetic: http://www.kidsource.com/education/computers.children.html.
(If you’d like to find out more about learning styles, please visit Creative Learning on http://www.creativelearningcentre.com/products.asp?sub=LSA.)
In general, experts seem to agree that computers help children make progress in such areas as nonverbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term memory, manual dexterity (mousing, action games), verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction, and conceptual skills.
Of course, computers are not the only way to help children fulfil their potential. There are songs, rhymes, piano lessons, climbing frames, trampolines, colourful paints, clay modelling, cooking lessons, swimming, stories, books, nature walks and most important of all: parental love and attention.
To paraphrase one of the earlier comments:
- Computers CAN stimulate young minds.
- Computers don't necessarily stimulate young minds.
- Computers are not the ONLY thing that can stimulate young minds.
Moderation seems to be the key. Computers are a tool, but a computer is neither sufficient nor necessary to grow happy, stimulated, creative children.
As children grow older and change from preschoolers into school students, you can also check their individual learning styles to find out whether they would benefit from computer-aided learning. Please see http://www.creativelearningcentre.com/news.asp?page=whatsnew&article=lsa_mini_press_release for more details.
(In next week’s blog: How much time in front of the computer is healthy at any age?)