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Journal Issue: Children and Computer Technology Volume 10 Number 2 Fall/Winter 2000

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to disseminate timely information on major issues related to children's well-being, with special emphasis on providing objective analysis and evaluation, translating existing knowledge into effective programs and policies, and promoting constructive institutional change. In attempting to achieve these objectives, we are targeting a multidisciplinary audience of national leaders, including policymakers, practitioners, legislators, executives, and professionals in the public and private sectors. This publication is intended to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analysis found in academic journals and in the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups. This issue of the journal focuses on children's growing use of computer technology both in school and at home. Nearly every public school now has computers, and over two-thirds of our nation's children have computers in their homes as well. Parents, teachers, and policymakers agree that children need to become competent computer users to be prepared for life and work in the twenty-first century. Yet children's growing use of computers brings with it both the promise of enriched learning and the risk of possible harm.

The articles presented here summarize the knowledge and research available on how the use of computers affects children's development, whether it increases or decreases the disparities between rich and poor, and whether it can be used effectively to enhance learning. Evidence suggests that excessive, unmonitored use of computers can place children at risk for harmful effects on their physical, social, and psychological development, and expose them to inappropriate violent, sexual, or commercial content. To reduce such risks, children's computer time should be limited and their exposure to different types of content should be supervised. The articles also describe many promising examples of computer use that give children new ways to access information, create projects, communicate with others around the world, and enrich their classroom learning. Public and private initiatives are needed to support the efforts of both parents and teachers to ensure that all of our nation's children benefit from the positive uses of technology, and that they are empowered to use computers effectively, responsibly, and creatively throughout their lives.

We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about children and computer technology. To this end we invite correspondence to the Editor. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.