FAILURE TO CONNECT by Jane M. Healy

FAILURE TO CONNECT

How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds--for Better and Worse
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A crisp critique of the impact of computers on children’s minds by educator Healy (Your Child’s Growing Mind, 1990. etc.), who contends that, in our fervor to embrace computers, we have overlooked their potential to harm youth, particularly young children. Drawing on extensive interviews with school administrators, teachers, parents, and children themselves, Healy concludes that the problems caused by excessive computer use are staggering: Among regular users, for example, visual impairment is now the norm, and hard- core cyberchildren, lacking sufficient physical exercise, as a result also grow up less fit mentally than their parents. Even more disturbing is the potential impact on brain development, since the processes of thinking aloud, questioning, creative problem-solving, and communicating will be inevitably downplayed by those who rely on computers to process data. Despite the shrill alarm she sounds, Healy doesn—t dismiss computers outright, and she maintains that, used moderately and guardedly, they can enrich young people’s lives: When 125 “at-risk” students in New York City were given home computers with online hookups, for example, Internet-research began to substitute for television viewing and severely withdrawn pupils began to communicate with one another online. For in-school use, the perfect model, in Healy’s view, is the Gold River Discovery School outside Sacramento, Calif. Here, students who use computers are “continually coached on how to take responsibility and reflect on their learning.” Hands-on learning always precedes computer use, and virtual reality is never allowed to take the place of genuine experience. Throughout, Healy intersperses her assessment with practical advice: She urges parents and educators to be wary of software that is overly stimulating to the senses alone, to avoid programs that give “rewards” for completing tasks, and to be on guard that children don—t avoid playing with friends in favor of spending more time interacting with their computers. A timely and sensible challenge to the prevalent notion that computers necessarily enhance mental development and learning. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83136-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998