Are computers robbing us of the power of speech?

Are computers robbing us of the power of speech?A report into children’s speech development by the Better Communication Research Programme has concluded that children’s communication problems have gone up by 70% over the last 7 years. According to the children’s communication charity, I CAN that means that at least two children in every class have trouble making themselves understood. That number rises to 17 in a class in areas of severe social deprivation. The former children’s communications tsar Jean Gross who is a trustee of the children’s communication charity I CAN thinks modern life, and parents’ over reliance on computers and smart phones may be hindering our children’s ability to speak properly. Can that really be happening? It has that scary ring of plausibility doesn’t it – the nightmare vision of children plugged into computers to keep them quiet. I’m sure most of us have handed our children a phone to distract them in moments of desperation but is that enough to stop them learning the power of speech? Really? I’d have more sympathy for these scare stories if I hadn’t seen them in so many different guises before. When I was growing up my mother was warned not to let me read Enid Blyton because they were said to be so easy to read and so much fun that they would spoil me for other books. Easy and entertaining books that she’ll want to read? You couldn’t see my mum’s patent heels for dust as off we trotted to stock up on copies of Tuppeny Feefo and Jinks. And when our first daughter, Ella, was born 19 years ago the new-fangled Teletubbies were accused of mangling the language and creating a generation of children who would never be able to speak properly.” Eh oh” to that, as I texted to her the other day.

And I’m sure, if taken to extremes too much technology can harm children’s ability to interact properly, but at the moment it just seems to be yet another form of communication. The other day I came home to find three small boys all lined up on the sofa crouching over one screen. My son was in the middle of them, jabbering away to a fourth on the phone helping him connect to something I don’t understand but which would enable him to join in the game. Should I be worried? Should I have packed them all off home and sent him upstairs to read The Hobbit? Let me know what you think…

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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