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Thursday June 6, 2013

Study: Children using gadgets early face social and health risks

Children using electronic gadgets like smartphones at a younger age are increasingly exposed to certain social and health risks that come with it.

Parents, however, do not fully understand the negative effects of using such devices.

Many also do not teach their children how to use them properly.

These preliminary findings are part of a new study led by Dr Nirmala Karuppiah from the National Institute of Education’s (NIE) early childhood and special education academic group.

The study is believed to be the first that looks at how pre-schoolers in Singapore use gadgets such as computers, tablets and smartphones. The study, which is funded by the Health Promotion Board and NIE, was presented yesterday at the Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference.

Researchers of the NIE study visited the homes and schools of 60 children from five pre-schools last year to observe their computer habits. There was an equal mix of boys and girls, aged five and six years old.

The study found that 65% of the children started playing with electronic devices before they turned three.

“In the past, parents allowed their children to use computers only when they were older,” said Dr Karuppiah. “Now, (the children) are given all sorts of gadgets at a younger age.”

She pointed out health risks such as poor sitting postures and children straining their eyes by sitting in front of and staring at electronic screens for too long.

There are also social and emotional risks like gaming addiction and cyber-bullying, which could lead to serious consequences.

Dr Karuppiah hopes that the study can spark further research in this area, and its findings can be used to develop preventive programmes for pre-schoolers. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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