Computers Hurt, Rather than Help, Low-Income Kids

June 10, 2008 07:00 AM
by Rachel Balik
Researchers discover that Romanian children who had subsidized computers performed worse academically than children without computers.

30-Second Summary

In a technologically evolving world, many believe it is essential for all children to grow up with a computer. The official mission statement of the philanthropic organization, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) states that “Standing still is a reliable recipe for going backward.” OLPC carries out its mission by delivering computers to children in impoverished countries. But one study finds that giving a child a computer is no guarantee of going forward. In Romania, children whose families received a subsidy allowing them to purchase a computer actually performed more poorly in school than those children in the same economic bracket who did not have computers.

Researchers speculate that this is because “for many kids, computers are indeed more of a distraction than a learning opportunity.” In cases where a parent was available to monitor the child, he or she often performed better in school and was more likely to express aspirations of attending college.

Many groups, such as One Laptop Per Child, still feel that the problems faced by education systems in developing countries can be solved with computers. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics states that screen time is unhealthy for young children, a study in England found that computer games were a viable substitute for books in terms of teaching plot and literacy.

Although the debate is clearly a long way from being resolved, children can certainly learn from computers and the Internet, if properly guided.

Headline Link: ‘The $100 Distraction Device’

Background Link: One Laptop per Child

Related Links: The pros and cons of screen time for kids

Reference Link: Using Computers for Good


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