Belfast Telegraph

Social worry over tech-savvy young

Increasing numbers of young children can use tablet computers and smartphones but are unable to play with building blocks or socialise with others, it has been suggested.

New technology has a "darker side" with school staff reporting that pupils are turning up for lessons after spending the night awake playing computer games, or wandering around at break times glued to their gadgets, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference heard.

Colin Kinney, a delegate from Northern Ireland, said: "I have spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like, or the pupils who cannot socialise with other pupils but whose parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone."

The union passed a resolution expressing concerns about "tablet addiction" among pupils.

It said that symptoms of this addiction can include include pupils being withdrawn at school, lacking interest in other activities, being irritable, deceptive and performing poorly in lessons.

The motion called on ATL's executive to draw together evidence on the problem and produce a factsheet for all education staff.

Mr Kinney told delegates at the Manchester conference that tablet computers are a "wonderful invention".

But he added: "Like lots of other technology they can have a darker side too - teachers talk of the pupils who come into their classrooms after spending most of the previous night playing computer games and whose attention span is so limited they may as well not be there, or the pupils who wander around at break or lunch glued to their tablets or smartphones."

Mr Kinney also said that some children have "brilliant computer skills" but that these are "outweighed by their deteriorating skills in pen and paper exams because they rely on the instant support of the computer."

He said that teachers did not want to deprive pupils of access to these devices, but highlight the issues that go with using them.

Mark Montgomery, also from Northern Ireland, said it was the job of the teacher to ensure that new technology is being used wisely and productively.

"In the same way we can use a brick to either a break a window or build a house, digital technology can be used for good or bad and teachers can and should help their pupils make positive choices do they have positive experiences."

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