3 minute read


Possible Negative Effects Of Computer Use, Possible Positive Effects Of Computer Use, Developmentally Appropriate Uses Of Computers

Computers are ubiquitous. As computers have become less expensive they have been purchased by more and more families for their homes. Because of this, many children begin to use computers at an early age. Even if computers are not available in their home, children almost certainly will begin to come into contact with computers in school.

Some adults are amazed by how readily young children use computers. Many children find that using computers gives them a sense of power and accomplishment. And, unlike many adults whose first or primary contact with computers is work related, most children first use computers for entertainment purposes and games. This is by no means the only use that children have for computers. Children also use computers for accessing information, as well as for writing stories and research papers.

In addition, children use a variety of learning programs, which either seek to teach or reinforce basic skills in math, language, reading, and other subjects. Other software allows children to draw pictures or create visual works of art and self-expression. Communication with others is growing as an application of computers by children, particularly as more homes and schools gain access to the Internet. As computers continue to become more powerful, increasing numbers of children are using computers to create multimedia presentations and even web sites that include pictures, text, audio, and even video.

Because computer use is promoted in schools, and because computers are so ubiquitous, children have a great deal of exposure to them. Not everyone, however, is comfortable with the use of computers by young children. Some, including the Alliance for Childhood, have called for a halt to the use of computers by young children. Such groups cite the costs as well as possible health effects that using computers may have on children. The true impact that early computer use has on children is uncertain. Even though there is not enough information to state authoritatively that computers have any negative effects on children, the possible adverse effects that have been cited are serious enough to warrant consideration.


Children can use computers in effective and positive ways. Positive uses of computers by children are developmentally appropriate and can reinforce the attainment of desirable skills and traits such as math mastery, verbal language use, and cooperation skills. Computers, however, can also be used in ways that may be harmful to the child. Possible harmful effects from computers, such as repetitive motion injuries and eyestrain, most often stem from overuse of computers and use of computers that are positioned inappropriately for children. If children are to use computers, they should be taught to limit their computer use to reasonable lengths of time. They should be supervised appropriately while using computers in ways that might expose them to inappropriate material or practices.


Armstrong, Alison, and Charles Casement. The Child and the Machine. Beltsville, MD: Robins Lane Press, 2000.

"Children and Computer Technology." Future of Children 10, no.2 (2000). Available from http://www.futureofchildren.org/cct/; INTERNET.

Cuban, Larry. Teachers and Machines. New York: Teachers College Press, 1985.

"Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood." In the Alliance for Childhood [web site]. College Park, Maryland, 2000. Available from http://www.allianceforchildhood.net/projects/computers/computers_reports.htm; INTERNET.

McCain, Ted, and Ian Jukes. Windows of the Future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2001.

Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms. New York: Basic, 1980.

Papert, Seymour. The Children's Machine. New York: Basic, 1993.

Papert, Seymour. The Connected Family. Atlanta, GA: Longstreet Press, 1996.

Van Scoter, Judy, Debbie Ellis, and Jennifer Railsback. "How Technology Can Enhance Early Childhood Learning." In the Early Connections [web site]. Portland, Oregon, 2001. Available from http://www.netc.org/earlyconnections/byrequest.html; INTERNET.

Brian Newberry

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 2