Belfast Telegraph

Computer games harm learning: union

Children's computer addictions are damaging their ability to concentrate on lessons, a teaching union in Northern Ireland has claimed.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in Belfast has received an increased number of reports from teachers worried about the impact of overuse of digital technology.

Director Mark Langhammer called for action, saying: "We're hearing reports of very young children who are arriving into school quite unable to concentrate or to socialise properly because they're spending so much time on digital games or social media.

"We'd like the Department of Education to issue guidance to all parents on the maximum amount of time which young children should spend on these devices, and on how kids can use digital technology safely and sensibly."

Emma Quinn teaches at a Newtownabbey primary school. She said many children lacked motivation and found it hard to focus on anything which was not exciting.

"There's a complete lack of motivation among many of my pupils - these gadgets are really destroying their ability to learn.

"They're so used to the instant buzz which you can get with these games and gadgets that they find it really hard to focus on anything which isn't exciting.

"All they want to do is to get back home so they can play on their Xbox or get on their tablet again."

She said at least half her class of seven to nine-year-olds use games intended for older teenagers and adults, which often feature violence and strong language. She believed this was having a very negative effect on their behaviour.

"We're finding that, for many children, when they begin school, it's the first time they've been told what they can't do - as opposed to simply being left to do what they like.

"Their response is to really act up and to be aggressive - because they're not used to any controls, and because these games have given them the idea that violence is the answer to every problem."

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