College Writing 103
20 November 2014
Positive and Negative Effects of Computer Usage Among Children
According to the 2013 United Census publications, 75.6% of US households were in
possession of a computer, compared to the 8.2% in 1984 (File 2). This thirty-year period has
ushered in an era in which humans, and more specifically children, have become increasingly
connected and reliant on this technology. The age at which children begin using computers has
been decreasing dramatically in recent years. Kaveri Subrahmanyam discusses this increase in
chronic computer use among children in her article “The Impact of Home Computer Use on
Children’s Activities and Developments.” Subrahmanyam states, “The increasing amount of time
children are spending on computers at home and school has raised questions about how the use
of computer technology may make a difference in their lives-from helping with homework to
causing depression (123).” Children use their time on computers in a variety of different ways,
including homework for school, social networking such as Facebook, playing games, and
watching videos. Over time, researchers have been able to gather information regarding the
positive and negative effects of computer usage. After reviewing the peer-reviewed literature
from multiple authors pertaining to children using computers, I have come to the conclusion that
moderate computer use among this age group has beneficial effects on academic performance,
but computer overuse has negative effects on factors such as social behavior, depression, and
It has long been debated that computer use can help children achieve a higher grade point
average by engaging their minds in ways that a paper and pencil cannot. Several researchers have
validated this point including Sang Min Lee in his article “Computer Use and Academic
Development in Secondary Schools.” In his research and sampling, Lee was able to collect data
that shows, “students who used the computer one hour per day for both school work and other
than school work had significantly higher reading and math test scores and more positive English
and math teacher evaluations for their classroom behaviors than any other groups” (Lee 230).
Along with Lee, Alice Casey’s article “Home Computer Use and Academic Performance of
Nine-Year-Olds,” explains this phenomenon by stating, “Our main finding is that computer use
by nine-year-old children is associated with increased reading and mathematics scores” (Casey
630). The research in multiple studies proves that children that moderately use the internet have
higher grades, but why? One of my beliefs why this occurs is because a computer is just another
medium of learning that children can take advantage of to learn more efficiently. Children born
in the technology age enjoy using computers and word processing software much more than
writing on paper. For example, a child would much rather use Google to search for an image of a
lemur, than comb through pages of National Geographic magazines for the same result that could
have been achieved minutes earlier. Computers have simplified the way children learn, and are
producing results in math and reading test scores to prove it.
Another benefit that computer use offers children is slightly increased cognitive abilities.
The internet and computer games can create new imaginative ways of thinking in a child.
Subrahmanyam addresses this point by stating, “playing specific computer games has been found
to have immediate positive effects on specific cognitive skills” (127). The intense imagery
experience that computer games use as their medium of communication allow children who
bolster computer gaming experiences to benefit in spatial and visual recognition tasks
(Subrahmanyam 128). Computer games in specific have also been shown increase attention and
short-term memory (Subrahmanyam 128). When children play online computer games, they
often become focused on a specific task that will allow them to play the game more efficiently.
This process is essentially a new way of learning and adaptation that is introduced to children
through the use of computers (Hunley 307). Although computers and the internet foster creativity
and learning in children, if overused, computers can possibly have negative effects on other
aspects of the child’s life.
Most children are naturally social and enjoy being involved in activities with their peers,
but major social deficits can occur when a child overuses the computer. Subrahmanyam brings
the social well being of children to light saying, “when children use computers instead of
participating in sports and social activities, it raises concerns about the possible effects on their
physical and psychological well being” (124). R. Sipal also describes the consequences of
internet overuse or addiction among children in social environments. He states, “School age
children commonly involve in online activities such as games, surfing adult sites and
unnecessary –sometimes inappropriate- chatting. These activities lead to fatigue, less amounts of
sleep, attention problems, social withdrawal and loss of interest to real life. School – family
collaboration is essential in those cases” (Sipal 1088). Every hour that a child spends looking at a
computer screen is an hour that could have been used for face-to-face interaction with peers.
Although the internet does facilitate the use of communication through instant messaging and
social networking websites such as Facebook, the human communication factor is lost in the
typed words. Facial expressions, body language, voice tone, and social interaction are eliminated
from these digital conversations, and are instead replaced with letters, words, and sentences that
can only be interpreted for their literal meaning. A child would be much more socially enriched
by playing sports, interacting with peers, and participating in clubs than being focused on a
computer screen for hours at a time. Ultimately, the job of limiting the time a child spends on the
internet is the parent’s role. Children ages 7-12 are at a critical point in their lives where peer
interaction is key in order to become a functioning social human in their years to come. If social
interaction continues to be muted computer overuse, other negative consequences await
Although depression is not the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when
thinking about children using the internet, it is a very serious topic that needs to be discussed. As
Subrahmanyam makes clear child depression from internet overuse is a pertinent issue.
Subrahmanyam argues, “Greater use of the internet also was associated with increases in
depression. In this study, those who were lonely or depressed were not more drawn to the
internet. Rather the HomeNet results suggest that using the internet in itself caused the declines
in social well being” (135). Depression can be caused by many different reasons while using the
internet. As children are over exposed to the internet, they may also become over exposed to
cyber bullying or harassment. An article published in Pediatrics by Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe
supports the idea that depression can stem from cyber bulling by arguing, “cyber bullying is
quite common, can occur to any young person online, and can cause profound psychological
outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and tragically, suicide” (O’Keeffe 801).
Cyber bullying is different from physical bullying in school because it is hard for a child that
overuses or is addicted to the internet to escape from. The child is constantly in fear of being
ridiculed on online social networks in front of thousands of people to see. After a while, this can
take a large toll on a young child and he or she can spiral into being depressed all of the time.
Because children addicted to the internet sometimes loss real-world social skills, they also can
become depressed to find that it becomes harder to communicate when not using a keyboard.
Many children lose confidence or forgot how to talk to their peers because they do not have any
meaningful interaction with them besides on social networking websites. Although mental illness
and depression is a large concern for children that overuse the internet, there are also many
physiological effects of this abuse also.
As children become more engorged with the process of using the internet compulsively,
there also becomes an inherit health risk. Subrahmanyam explains this in her article saying,
“studies suggest that children’s extended computer use may be linked to an increased risk of
obesity, seizures, and hand injuries” (125). By sitting in front of a computer most of the day,
children replace time to exercise and play sports with long gaming sessions that do not engage
their bodies. Many children that sit in front of television screens or computer monitors for more
than five hours per day are at a much greater risk of becoming obese than children who do not
(Subrahmanyam 126). Other health problems that computer overuse can spark include increased
amount of seizures for children that have epilepsy. R. Singh authored an article in Publications
on Behalf of the Neurological Society that clearly explains how seizure patients can be affected
by computer use. Singh describes the effects of video games on epileptic patients by stating,
“Video game epilepsy is considered to be its variant or a pattern sensitive epilepsy. The mean age
of onset is around puberty and boys suffer more commonly as they are more inclined to play
video games. Television set or computer screen is the commonest precipitants” (Singh 411).
Seizures are commonly induced by the bright, flashing lights along with the loud noises that are
produced in computer games. Epileptic children should be closely monitored when using the
internet to protect them from having excessive seizures. Other computer addiction related
injuries include orthopedic injuries to the hands and wrists. These painful injuries are caused by
extensive overuse of the hands when typing, playing computer games, or using a video game
controller. Subrahmanyam highlights these injuries explaining, “Excessive computer game
playing also has been associated with a form of tendinitis, called Nitendinitis, which is a sports
injury characterized by severe pain in the extensor tendon of the right thumb as a result of
repeated pressing of buttons during game play” (127). All of these injuries can be easily avoided
if a child is not overusing the computer. Parents must be able to draw a line in the sand that limits
computer use to prevent their children from developing the physical effects.
With computers now being so widespread and available, recently children have been
reaping their benefits, as well as suffering from their consequences. The benefits of children
using computers include increased academic performance in reading and mathematics testing, as
well as slightly increased cognitive abilities in visual performance and short-term memory. The
list of computer overuse related negative effects are numerous, but may affect a child’s social
life, depressiveness, and physical health. Severe addiction to the internet may occur causing a
child to become more sedentary, overweight, depressed, and socially awkward. Despite these
negatives, I applaud research that concludes that controlled use of computers can simplify and
enhance education. The only way for children to have a healthy relationship with computers is to
educate them about the appropriate uses of the internet. It is a parent’s responsibility to determine
the amount of time their child should be allowed on his or her computer. As children begin to
increasingly use computers for schoolwork as well as non-academic uses, their needs to be
moderation put in place to ensure proper usage of these tools of technology.
Casey, A, et al. “Home Computer Use and Academic Performance of Nine-Year Olds.” Oxford
Review of Education 38.5 (2012): 617-634. Web 30 Oct. 2014.
File, Thom. “Computer and Internet Use in the United States.” US Census Bureau 20.568 2013
Hunley, Sawyer A, et al. “Adolescent Computer Use and Academic Achievement.”
Adolescence 40.158 (2005): 307-318. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
Lee, Sang Min, et al. “Computer Use and Academic Development in Secondary Schools.”
Computers in Schools 26.3 (2009): 224-235. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
O’Keefe, Gwenn and Kathleen Clark-Pearson. “Clinical Report-The Impact of Social Media on
Children, Adolescents, Families.” Pediatrics 127.4 (2011): 800-804. Web. 19 November
Singh, R, et al. “Video Game Epilepsy.” Medknow Publications on Behalf of the Neurological
Society 49.1 (2001): 411-420. Web. 24 November 2014.
Sipal, R. and Pinar Bayhan. “Preferred Computer Activities During School Age: Indicators of
Internet Addiction.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 9 (2010): 1085-1089.
Web. 19 November 2014.
Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, et al. “The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and
Development.” Children and Computer Technology 10.2 (2000): 123-140. Web. 19