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The impact of computer use on children's and - Children's Digital ...

The impact of computer use on children's and - Children's Digital ...

16 K. Subrahmanyam et

16 K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 access. Parents in the HomeNet study said they appreciated the new educational resources that the Internet provided their children, but at the same time worried about erosion ong>ofong> standards (e.g., reading short articles online rather than books) and about the credibility ong>ofong> online information. One mother marveled at the wealth ong>ofong> information that her middle-school aged son was able to discover, but also worried that the sheer abundance ong>ofong> the information was devaluing research and critical thought. Others worried that the information was biased and unbalanced. Several studies provide preliminary evidence that ong>computerong> ong>useong> is positively correlated with academic achievement, but fails to clarify this relationship. Sparks (1986) reported significant differences between the ong>computerong> literacy scores ong>ofong> high school students who had educational song>ofong>tware at home and those who did not. She further determined that presence ong>ofong> video games and word processing song>ofong>tware on a student's home ong>computerong> were not significant factors in ong>computerong> literacy scores. Computer ong>useong> by a male adult in the home was positively correlated with male and female students' ong>computerong> literacy scores. Rocheleau (1995) analyzed survey responses from 7th to 12th graders. Students with home ong>computerong>s reported higher overall grades and better grades in math and English than did students without home ong>computerong>s. Given that a home ong>computerong> is correlated with parent education and SES levels, it is noteworthy that when only children with home ong>computerong>s were examined, heavier ong>useong>rs reported better overall grades, better grades in Math and English, and did better on a test ong>ofong> scientific knowledge. Another study that compared the out-ong>ofong>-school activities ong>ofong> 5- to 12-year-old students deemed generally academically ``successful'' and ``unsuccessful'' found that unsuccessful boys spent more time watching television and playing video games than their academically high-achieving peers (Madden, Bruekman, & Littlejohn, 1997). One program ong>ofong> note is that ong>ofong> Cole (1996), who has been experimenting with the ong>useong> ong>ofong> electronic communication and games with children in both classroom and after-school settings for nearly 15 years. ong>Theong> after-school programs are called ``ong>Theong> Fifth Dimension,'' and include the typical ong>useong>s ong>ofong> home ong>computerong>s, such as educational song>ofong>tware, ong>computerong> games, searching the Internet, and multiong>useong>r dungeons (MUD) activities. Subject matter includes social development, geography, communications, reading, writing, math, social studies, health, technology, language, and problem solving (Blanton, Moorman, Hayes, & Warner, 1997). ong>Theong> electronic games and Internet activities are based in a total social and cognitive environment that includes a ladder ong>ofong> challenges. Program effects include advances in reading and mathematics, ong>computerong> knowledge, following directions, grammar and school achievement tests (Summary ong>ofong> cognitive evaluation studies, n.d.). Although Cole's programs are set in after-school settings, his results indicate that well designed games and Internet activities for home ong>useong> can have a lasting ong>impactong> on children's academic performance. ong>Theong> emergence ong>ofong> the Internet and resulting educational innovations has spawned research focong>useong>d on the educational ong>impactong> ong>ofong> projects that integrated home and school ong>computerong> ong>useong> through school-driven, technology-enriched curricula (McGarvey, 1986; McMahon & Duffy, 1993). Initially, qualitative studies praised programs like the Classroom ong>ofong> Tomorrow and the Buddy System Project, citing descriptive evidence that home-school ong>computerong> curricula increased parent±teacher interaction, bolstered students' self-esteem and motivation for learning, and greatly facilitated learning for students with ADHD and other learning

K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 17 disabilities. However, later follow-ups, attempting to quantify these findings, have found no significant relationship between academic achievement and participation in such projects (Miller & McInerney, 1995). Given that the evidence shows mild positive effects ong>ofong> home ong>computerong> ong>useong> on academic performance, we need research to understand fully these effects. 5. Effects on social development and relationships In the following sections, we examine the various ways in which ong>computerong> ong>useong> ong>impactong>s social development, from the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> game playing on the development ong>ofong> friendships and family relationships to the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> the Internet on relationships and psychological well-being. 5.1. Impact on friendships and family relationships Interaction with peers has an ong>impactong> on children's interpersonal skills, their poise, and social competence (Dworetzky, 1996). By age 7, children tend to spend as much time with peers as they do with adults (Griffiths, 1997). Becaong>useong> ong>ofong> the solitary nature ong>ofong> most ong>computerong> activities, concerns have been raised that children might form ``electronic friendships'' with the machine, instead ong>ofong> friendships with their peers, hindering the development ong>ofong> interpersonal skills. ong>Theong> fact that more than one-fifth ong>ofong> all children between 8 and 18 report having a ong>computerong> in their bedroom (Roberts et al., 1999) indicates that the ong>computerong> may ong>ofong>ten be ong>useong>d in solitude; indeed, Roberts et al. found that, among junior high and high school students, over 60% ong>ofong> all ong>computerong> time is spent alone. Of course, some ong>ofong> this time is spent in fostering electronic relationships through e-mail. Few studies have examined the effect ong>ofong> children's time on ong>computerong>s on their social skills and friendships. ong>Theong> extant research suggests that frequent game players actually meet friends outside school more ong>ofong>ten than less frequent players (Colwell, Grady, & Rhaiti, 1995). In addition, no differences have been found in the social interactions (Phillips, Rolls, Roong>useong>, & Griffiths, 1995) ong>ofong> ong>computerong> game players vs. nonplayers. In other words, game playing did not ong>impactong> the social networks and characteristics ong>ofong> interactions among children. Less is known, however, about the long-term effects ong>ofong> excessive ong>computerong> ong>useong> among the 7% to 9% ong>ofong> children who play ong>computerong> games for 30 h/week or more (Griffiths & Hunt, 1995). ong>Theong> ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> ong>useong> on family dynamics is also ong>ofong> interest. In an early study conducted during the 1980s, 20 families with new home ong>computerong> game sets were interviewed for their opinions about the benefits and dangers ong>ofong> playing games (Mitchell, 1985). ong>Theong> results suggested that ong>computerong> games did have an ong>impactong> on family interaction Ð they brought the members together for shared play and interaction. An important question is whether this is still true now that ong>computerong>s and game sets have multiplied in numbers, have become more routinized in the home, and are usually located in personal spaces, such as bedrooms. Current research on this topic is needed. Children and teens are ong>ofong>ten more sophisticated than their parents in their knowledge ong>ofong> and ability to navigate on ong>computerong>s. For instance, 62% ong>ofong> teenagers between ages 13 and 17 said that they could operate electronic equipment or ong>computerong> song>ofong>tware without any help, and 54% reported that they or a sibling were responsible for programming the VCR in their family

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