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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 ...

8 K. Subrahmanyam et al.

8 K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 electronic games, home ong>computerong>s, and the Internet to other technologies Ð the telephone, radio, TV, and stereo system Ð that consume children's time. Furthermore, the Annenberg Public Policy Center has reported that among U.S. hoong>useong>holds with children aged 8 to 17, 60% had home ong>computerong>s, and children in 61% ong>ofong> hoong>useong>holds with ong>computerong>s had access to Internet services; in other words, 36.6% ong>ofong> all hoong>useong>holds with children had Internet services, more than twice the percentage ong>ofong> that in 1996 (Turow, 1999). When a national sample ong>ofong> children and teenagers was asked to choose which medium to bring with them to a desert isle, more children from 8 to 18 chose a ong>computerong> with Internet access than any other medium (Rideout, Foehr, Roberts, & Brodie, 1999). Surveys ong>ofong> parents suggest that they buy home ong>computerong>s and subscribe to Internet access to provide educational opportunities for their children, and to prepare them for the ``information-age'' (Turow, 1999). Although they are increasingly concerned about the influence ong>ofong> the Web on their children and express disappointment over their children using the ong>computerong> for activities such as playing games and browsing the Internet to download lyrics ong>ofong> popular songs and pictures ong>ofong> rock stars, they generally consider time wasted on the ong>computerong> preferable to time wasted on TV, and even consider children without ong>computerong>s to be at a disadvantage (Kraut, Scherlis, Mukhopadhyay, Manning, & Kiesler, 1996). While the research on whether ong>computerong>s are a positive influence in children's lives is mostly sketchy and ambiguous, some initial findings are beginning to emerge. This article starts with a discussion ong>ofong> the time spent by children on ong>computerong>s and the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> such ong>computerong> ong>useong> on other activities such as television viewing. ong>Theong>n we review the available research on the effects ong>ofong> ong>computerong> ong>useong> on children's cognitive and academic skill development, social development and relationships, as well as perceptions ong>ofong> reality and violent behavior. We present data from the HomeNet project, which was a field trial by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who studied hoong>useong>hold ong>useong> ong>ofong> the Internet between 1995 and 1998 (Kraut et al., 1996, 1998). By reducing economic and technological barriers to the ong>useong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong>s and the Internet from home, this study examined how a diverse sample ong>ofong> families would ong>useong> the technology when provided the opportunity for the first time. Starting in 1995, the study provided 93 families in the Pittsburgh area with home ong>computerong>s and connections to the Internet, then collected data about them for 2 years through in-home interviews, periodic questionnaires, and automatically whenever members ong>ofong> these families went online. ong>Theong> goal was to provide a rich picture ong>ofong> the factors encouraging or discouraging ong>useong> ong>ofong> the Internet, the manner the Internet was ong>useong>d, and the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> such ong>useong> over time. ong>Theong> sample included 208 adults and 110 children and teenagers (ranging in age from 10±19 years), hereafter referred to inclusively as teenagers. Here we present data on teenagers' ong>useong> ong>ofong> the Internet. In examining the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> ong>useong>, we have primarily looked at two popular applications ong>ofong> the ong>computerong>, including games and the Internet. Becaong>useong> games played on a ong>computerong> are similar to games played on other platforms (e.g., stand-alone game sets such as Nintendo and Sega or hand-held games, such as Gameboy), we ong>useong> the term ``ong>computerong> games'' inclusively to refer to all kinds ong>ofong> interactive games regardless ong>ofong> platform. Even the distinction between games and the Internet is getting blurry as interactive games can be played on the Internet. With the expected convergence ong>ofong> different media in the near future, assessing the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> technology on children will only get more complex and challenging.

K. Subrahmanyam et al. / Applied Developmental Psychology 22 (2001) 7±30 9 2. Time spent on ong>computerong>s Understanding the ong>impactong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong> ong>useong> requires good estimates ong>ofong> both the time children spend on ong>computerong>s, and the time taken away from other activities. Time ong>useong> data on children's ong>useong> ong>ofong> ong>computerong>s has been gathered mostly through self-reports and reports by parents. Despite their overall ong>useong>fulness, particularly for sampling a large number ong>ofong> people, self-report data are beset by problems ong>ofong> accuracy and reliability stemming from memory limitations and inaccurate estimations on the part ong>ofong> respondents; these problems are further accentuated when studying children. In contrast to the self-report methods, more reliable methods include the Experience Sampling Method, in which participants were paged and asked to record their activity when paged (Kubey & Larson, 1990) and ong>computerong>-based means ong>ofong> tracking ong>computerong> ong>useong>, where the song>ofong>tware records the person using the PC, the applications ong>useong>d, and web sites visited. However, these methods are also more expensive and time-consuming to carry out, and raise concerns regarding privacy. Parents in the Annenberg survey report that children (between 2 and 17 years) in homes with ong>computerong>s spend approximately 1 h and 37 min a day on ong>computerong>s, including video games (Stanger & Gridina, 1999). In the HomeNet study, machine records ong>ofong> weekly usage averaged across approximately 2 years ong>ofong> data between 1995 and 1998 show that among the teens who had access to the Internet at home, usage averaged about 3 h/week during weeks when they ong>useong>d it, and over 10% ong>useong>d it more than 16 h/week. Teens in the study were much heavier ong>useong>rs ong>ofong> the Internet and all its services than were their parents. ong>Theong> teens ong>useong>d the Internet for schoolwork, for communication with both local and distant friends, and to have fun, especially by finding information related to their interests and hobbies. As seen in Fig. 1, teenagers were more likely than adults to report using the Internet for social purposes. For example, teens were more likely to report using the Internet to communicate with friends, meet new people, get personal help, and join groups. 1 ong>Theong>y were also more likely to ong>useong> the Internet to listen to music, play games, and download song>ofong>tware. In contrast, adults were more likely to ong>useong> the Internet for instrumental purposes such as getting product information, purchasing products, or supporting their employment. Teens also ong>useong>d the Internet for instrumental purposes, such as doing schoolwork and finding educational material. 2.1. Variation in ong>useong> by age, gender, ethnicity, and social class ong>Theong> time that a particular child spends on a ong>computerong> and their activities on the ong>computerong> may depend on age, gender, ethnicity, and social class. In a national survey ong>ofong> children and teenagers from 2 to 18, the percentage ong>ofong> children who reported (or were reported by their parents) to have ong>useong>d a ong>computerong> out ong>ofong> school the day before rose with age: from 26% in the 2 to 7 age range, to 44% among the 14- to 18-year-olds (Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, & Brodie, 1999). Interestingly, while more boys than girls reported using (or were reported to ong>useong>) ong>computerong>s in school the day before, there were no gender differences in percentages using a ong>computerong> out ong>ofong> school. However, the percentages ong>ofong> children using a ong>computerong> the day 1 ong>Theong>se comparisons control for the greater number ong>ofong> hours per week that teens are online compared to adults.

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