Children's Home Computer Use Linked to Learning and Weight
Warning to educators and parents: Students who spend a moderate
amount of time on their home computers may be smarter than their
classmates, but those who spend a lot of time on home computers may
only be fatter.
Those were among the findings of a study compiled by researchers at the City University of New York Graduate Center in New York City.
CUNY sociology professor Paul Attewell and several of his colleagues analyzed a nationally representative sample of 1,680 students ages 4 to 14 for the study, "Computers and Young Children: Social Benefit or Social Problem?"
Students who used home computers moderately—less than eight hours a week—scored higher on tests measuring letter-word recognition, reading comprehension, and mathematics than students who did not use computers at home, the researchers found. Those students also did not weigh more than their classmates who did not use home computers.
However, students who used home computers more than eight hours a week, about 2 percent of the representative sample, did not score better on the reading and math tests than students who didn't use home computers. And those so-called "heavy users" weighed about 12 pounds more, on average, than students who did not use computers at home.
"Children who were heavy users of home computers did spend much less time on sports and outdoor activities (three hours less a week) than children who did not use computers at all," the report says.
Middle school teachers can instruct students on responsible "digital citizenship" with a new curriculum kit that reviews copyright laws, intellectual-property rights, and the consequences of illegally downloading music or other online material.
Developed by Junior Achievement and called "What's the Diff?," the curriculum supplements the nonprofit Colorado Springs, Colo.-based group's business-ethics offerings for young people.
The organization started offering the anti-piracy program last month, and Junior Achievement leaders hope it reaches up to 900,000 students in grades 5-9 by the end of the school year. About 20,000 classroom kits have been distributed.
The Motion Picture Association of America, the Encino, Calif.- based trade group that has taken legal action against people who have illegally downloaded music, movies, and other material from the Internet, paid for the program.
Law-enforcement officials seized 2.5 million illegally downloaded files, mostly music, in the first six months of this year, a figure that is 18.1 percent higher than it was for 2002, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade organization in Washington.
The U.S. departments of Education and Commerce recently formed an interagency committee to study and develop technology tools for education and training.
The aim of the committee is to enhance U.S. competitiveness in the international marketplace, said Undersecretary of Commerce Phillip J. Bond.
"In the face of intense global competition, nations around the world are competing for jobs and economic growth by developing a world-class workforce," he said in a statement. "Our workers need broad and rapid access to high-quality knowledge and skills development from K to gray."
Mr. Bond and John P. Bailey, the director of educational technology for the Education Department, announced the formation of the working group Oct. 23 at the National School Boards Association's technology conference in Anaheim, Calif.
Among the federal agencies that will be represented on the committee are the departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Labor, along with the Library of Congress and the National Security Agency.
—Rhea J. Borja
Vol. 23, Issue 10, Page 14Published in Print: November 5, 2003, as Technology Update